In the early hours of the 9th October 1995 emergency crews were called to contain a huge fire that had broken out at the BASF site at Wilton on Teeside. The warehouse contained polypropylene products and was completely destroyed. A large smoke cloud hovered over the site and although this was deemed to be non-toxic, businesses in the immediate vicinity were told to stay away. Thankfully no one was killed or seriously injured, but the fire caused a major disruption to the area, not to mention the monetary and reputational costs to BASF.
There were several failings which led to this disaster, but fundamentally the cause was identified as being the overheating of a fluorescent light. Once it caught fire, the diffuser then dripped flaming molten plastic down on the highly flammable stock below, spreading the fire to the warehouse floor.
Although this happened nearly two decades ago, there is still an enormous risk posed by archaic, poor quality, or inappropriately specified luminaires. We would recommend that any public or commercial premises should have a detailed risk assessment carried out on any new or existing lighting installations. It is also prudent to consider the position and efficacy of Emergency Lighting ensuring it is fireproof, and that the build materials are fit for purpose.
Our Lighting Applications Manager, David Holmes, contributed to the following Lux Magazine article by Alan Tulla, which covered diffuser specification and building regulations.
If you’re using an acrylic diffuser, check compliance with Part B of the Building Regulations. Part B is often overlooked when it comes to lighting design and luminaire layout. It refers to the spread of fire in buildings. Of particular relevance is the choice of diffuser material and whether it will burn or drip flaming material on to the occupants.
In essence, the Part B document separates materials in to TP(a) and TP(b). The former are generally polycarbonate or ABS and there is no limit to their use in buildings. The TP(b) products include acrylic, PMMA and polystyrene. These products have constraints in terms of luminaire spacing and the amount of diffuser material as a percentage of floor area.
Remember that escape routes such as corridors and foyers require luminaires that pass the flame test. Acrylic won’t pass, so you can’t use these luminaires for emergency lighting routes.
If you would like to discuss safety in lighting, or arrange for an assessment, you can reach David Holmes by phone on 0161 274 3626, or email email@example.com.