Tony Smith, ISRI’s vice president of safety, used former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson’s famous quote, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth,” to illustrate how fire safety works at the E-Scrap Conference and Trade Show, Sept. 19-21 in New Orleans.

ISRI had the privilege of hosting “Fire Safety at Your Facility,” the lead-off workshop on the conference’s first day. The three-hour workshop included interactions with the audience and Smith; Darrell Fleming-Kendall, executive director of the Recycling Industry Operating Standard (RIOS)™; Richard “Bo” Bodo, director of learning and development at battery recycler Li-Cycle; and George Hinkle, partner at information technology asset disposition (ITAD) company ARCOA Group.

Smith shared these statistics:

  • Of the 317 publicly reported major fires in 2020, 158 occurred in facilities that process waste, paper, and plastic; 108 occurred in facilities that process recycled metal.
  • These fires were responsible, either directly or indirectly, for 23 reported injuries and three deaths.

Traditional fire hazards from combustibles such as aerosols and butanes; lithium-ion batteries; heat or  dry environments; recycling chemicals and hazardous materials; sparks from building and equipment maintenance; and arson are all things recyclers must plan for, according to Smith.

Temperature and thermal imaging sensors, as well as good material handling practices, are a start. Writing a good fire prevention and management plan is a tall order, because the document must combine common sense with initial response measures; clearly defined roles for workers in an emergency; escape routes; post-incident reporting; and more.

“When you think about military operations, they train, train, train, and train on ‘the plan,’” Smith explains. “This is a plan that needs to be trained on because it can affect the longevity and the continuation of your business.”

While battery-involved fires or “thermal events” as those in the know call them frequently were on recyclers’ lips at the E-Scrap Conference, Bodo says they aren’t particularly common in the industry. “That’s a problem,” Bodo says. “Because if something doesn’t happen very often, you don’t have a whole lot of experience from which to train people. But [lithium-ion incidents] also are high impact, meaning that when they occur, people tend to have a very immediate reaction.”

Smith discussed ISRI’s fire safety prevention team, made up of staff, fire chiefs, and legal professionals, and explained the resources ISRI makes available through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Susan Harwood Grant. Fleming-Kendall explained how RIOS certification melds quality, environmental, health, and safety (QEHS) practices into one streamlined system.

“One of the things that [RIOS, ISRI, and partners] recently created is an electronics recycling health and safety professionals working group, which is designed for exactly these types of topics,” Fleming-Kendall explains. “Safety is not so much about training as it is about best practices, who’s doing what; what sort of tips and tricks are out there to do this effectively, efficiently, and safely; with the compliance component as well.”

Consultant Ken Kunze, IC Fire Prevention founder and former Fort Wayne, Ind., battalion chief, helped create ISRI’s Guide to Creating a Fire Prevention and Management Plan and conducted a 2021 OSHA-funded study of fire hazards in the recycling industry. Through ISRI, Kunze has conducted onsite audits of fire risks at member companies, including ARCOA.

“He was at a site for almost 7-8 hours,” Hinkle explains. “He really picked us apart, which was fantastic. He picked up a lot of things that you’re not aware of. It was great to get a second set of eyes and a great resource from ISRI—we really appreciate it.”

For more information about ISRI’s fire safety and prevention resources, email isrisafety@isri.org or call Smith at (202) 662-8529.

 

Photo courtesy of ISRI. Caption: ISRI’s Tony Smith, Li-Cycle’s Bo Bodo, RIOS’ Darrell Fleming-Kendall, and ISRI Electronics Division Chair Adam Shine of Sunnking begin the “Fire Safety at Your Facility” workshop at the E-Scrap Conference 2022.

Dan Hockensmith

Dan Hockensmith

I'm a native Ohioan who since 2014 has called Maryland home. My background includes print, broadcast, and digital journalism; government contracting; marketing communications; and nonprofit advocacy.