Technology Is The Key In Mitigating The Inherent Threat Of Fire In Waste & Recycling Operations

From Ryan Fogelman | Pulse | LinkedIn

Technology Is The Key In Mitigating The Inherent Threat Of Fire In Waste & Recycling Operations

A fire occurred at your operation. If it is a fire incident that is caught and contained, we all breath a collective sigh of relief. "Pats on the back" are passed out for having the safety and procedural processes in place to successfully prevent a fire event from becoming a major incident. In simple terms, the safety and operations teams did their job, and our processes and training worked.

Alternatively, a fire occurred at your operation. The fire got out of control and caused significant damage. The "Active" protection layer, which in Waste & Recycling operations typically consists of water sprinklers that are automatically set off when radiant heat passes 180 degrees -- more often than not -- contain the fire, protecting the lives of your employees and most of the building structure. However, in reality, your operations are offline. The cleanup process is sprung into action to re-start the revenue generating operations of your business with the goal of having the shortest amount of downtime. The subsequent investigation begins as the team starts to search for answers for what went wrong. The backroom discussions and finger-pointing begin, typically pointing to a combination the Operations and EH&S Departments of the Organization to develop processes or training to avoid another incident in the future like the one that occurred.

My belief is that there is an inherent risk of fire in our Waste & Recycling Industry operations is not secret (See: Is The Waste & Recycling Industry Facing A Fire Epidemic?). As an Industry, for us to begin to solve the problem we are facing, we only need to borrow an approach used by the Chemical Industry that looks to the “layers of protection” to ensure the highest level of safety.

“To prevent disaster, we design safety in layers, each one of these layers is designed to perform independently, providing its own safety function, so when we talk safety and disaster prevention, we talk about ‘layers of protection,’” notes Pete Skipp, engineering manager of applied technology with Rockwell Automation (See: Milwaukee, Wisc.;

A general industry illustration shows the layers of protection. The lowest two layers show the areas of prevention provided by the control system and operator intervention. The next two layers demonstrate where technology kicks in to prevent significant disaster from occurring. (See: Don't Let Your Disaster Recovery Plan Collect Dust)

The fact is that Fire Incidents that continue to plague the Waste & Recycling Industry do not discriminate against poorly run operations. Some of the best operators in the Industry are still victims of fire incidents. Why?

In my opinion, the answer lies in the fact that most organizations focus the bulk of their operational and safety resources around the "Prevent" & "Mitigate" stages. They create processes and training programs that teach their employees how to use equipment and run their operations safely. Also, they train how to effectively deal with an emergency by finely balancing containment and response with the employee and environmental protection.

The issue is our lack of investment and, frankly, our lack of reliable options to invest in as an Industry available to protect our operations from the "Incident" stage. When it comes to using technology, most organizations utilize the options that come as options on the equipment, such as automatic sensors and shut offs. However, when it comes to the tools we use during the "Incident" stage, including standards such as fire alarms, strobe lights and even water sprinklers, the current technology available simply does not cut it.

The issue lies in the fact that developing operation and safety processes and procedures, while important, can only take you so far in lessening the risk of fires in the Waste & Recycling Industry. That is where the Fire Rover solution comes in. The Fire Rover works diligently to provide a safety system that has the primary function of preventing incidents that may cause damage, pollution or injury. Our solution was designed to detect an out-of-control process and take automatic action to ensure that the process and the plant are returned to a safe state. Unlike the options available in the past, our solution combines (1) Proactive Automated Detection Of Heat; (2) Manual Verification Of The Source Of the Abnormality, and; (3) On-site Remotely Operated Coolant Options To Eliminate/Contain The Threat.

Our solution is a living, breathing layer of protection meant to compliment and work within all of the diligence and hard work that our safety and operations teams have developed, maintained and continuously improve upon. Imagine if a surgeon only had humans (without the help of technology) available to keep us alive during a surgical procedure. Surely the percentage of incidents during surgery would increase. There is finally a proven solution that works to compound the level of safety within our organizations and can give our EH&S and Operations folks the right tools to meet their goal of "No Fire Incidents." The Fire Rover fills the void between our operations manual processes and proactive fire protection, with the right combination of human knowledge and technology working together for the greater goal of fewer fire incidents in our Waste & Recycling Operations.

If you are interested in learning more or discussing your specific operation and its applicability, please feel free to reach out through LinkedIn or rfogelman(at)


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