Dumpsters are humble, utilitarian pieces of equipment in the work environment, but they quickly become the center of attention should they catch fire. A dumpster fire is not always an insignificant event; it can rapidly spread to structures and cause massive damage and destruction to property. In addition, the fumes and toxic smoke from a burning dumpster can be dangerous to persons in the vicinity. These reasons are why prevention and mitigating the consequences of a fire are important. Below are several things you can do to keep dumpsters for rent in your care from catching fire and how to minimize damage should fire erupt:
Keep dumpsters away from flammable structures and objects
One of the simplest steps that should be taken is to locate dumpsters in an area away from buildings and other objects that can serve as fuel for a spreading fire. That means placing dumpsters on concrete, asphalt or gravel pads, and do not allow grass and weeds to grow up beside your dumpsters, as well. In addition, be careful that you don't store other types of flammable wastes next to your dumpsters; for example, keep empty barrels that may be filled with flammable vapors in a separate area. Always consider other placement factors, such as how the wind can blow embers from a dumpster fire toward structures or overhead objects that might be engulfed in flames from below.
Exercise discretion when disposing trash
A common misconception is that anything can be tossed into a dumpster. However, there are several things, many of them extremely flammable, that should never be disposed of in a dumpster. These include:
Propane tanks - These tanks may leak flammable gases that can accumulate inside the dumpster and possibly result in a spectacular fire or even explosion if ignited.
Partially-filled aerosol cans - Pressurized cans pose a threat to explode during a fire, and they also can serve as a fuel source. Place only empty cans in your dumpsters.
Mattresses - While they may not seem like much of a threat, mattresses contain an enormous amount of potential fuel for a fire, including some toxic materials. In addition, mattresses entrap air, thus providing an oxygen source for a growing fire inside the dumpster.
Liquid petroleum products or paint - It is obvious that pouring gasoline into a dumpster is highly-dangerous, but other liquids, such as paints, oil, or certain cleaning solutions, can pose a fire hazard.
Tires - It is true that tires don't ignite easily, but they are difficult to extinguish once they do catch fire. Tires inside a dumpster can make a fire a long, hard job for firefighters tasked with the job of putting it out.
Lithium batteries - Commonly found in cell phones and other rechargeable electronics, lithium batteries can become chemically-unstable when discharged, and heat or even penetration of the case can cause a fire. Lithium batteries can also short out and overheat if the terminals come into contact with metallic objects, and a fire could be the result.
Properly label dumpsters regarding contents and hazards
It is a good idea to use clear, readily-viewed labels to alert persons in the area about possible fire hazards inside a dumpster. In addition, signs prohibiting smoking in close proximity to dumpsters and forbidding the disposal of cigarette butts inside dumpsters can prevent a fire from erupting. Just be sure to check with your local dumpster service to determine if placing your own signs is appropriate or if you need to order special signs from them.
Monitor dumpsters to catch fires early
Dumpsters may not be much of a target for thieves in your work environment, but they should still be monitored by security personnel for the sake of fire prevention and control. This can be accomplished by placing them in a visible location that is frequently seen by security officers as well as locating dumpsters strategically near cameras. Make routine patrols of the dumpsters a part of your overall security plan.
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