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NFRS supports farmers in staying compliant when storing dangerous substances

Sacks of fertilizer being stored in a barn

Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service (NFRS) is reminding local farmers to notify them if they are storing dangerous substances, as they launch a new online form to simplify the notification process.

Farmers are legally required to ensure the safe storage and handling of dangerous substances and have an obligation to notify both their local fire and rescue service and Health and Safety Executive when storing certain quantities.

This is a timely reminder as many farmers will have purchased fertilisers in bulk and will be storing substances over the winter months in preparation for spreading on fields in Spring. Ammonium nitrate is a popular fertiliser which when stored properly poses few safety hazards and will not explode during normal handling. It can however be detonated under heat, confinement, or severe shock. Due to the potential risk, fire and rescue services must have plans in place for a safe, effective and efficient response should there be an incident involving this type of fertiliser.

The online form enables farmers to provide up to date information on what the substance is that they are storing, the exact location, how it is stored, the use by date and the quantity of the substance being stored. This information will assist NFRS incident commanders in assessing risk and ensuring that appropriate precautions are in place to keep farm workers, firefighters and themselves safe.

It is a legal requirement to notify the fire and rescue service about any site storing 25 tonnes or more of a dangerous substance, or 150 tonnes or more of ammonium nitrate and mixtures containing ammonium nitrate where the nitrogen content exceeds 15.75%.

There is also a requirement to ensure appropriate signage is clearly visible at the location of the dangerous substance. The signs should be maintained in a condition which will ensure that firefighters can see them and recognise the symbols immediately on arrival at the site.

Chris Maher, Risk Intelligence Officer at Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service said: “We want to encourage as many farmers as possible across the county to complete the online form to tell us what is being stored, where it’s being stored and how much is being stored. This will help us to risk assess the farm and ensure plans are in place so that if the worst happens and an incident occurs, we are fully informed to manage it and keep everyone safe.”

“Having out of date information is as bad as having no information, so we are urging farmers to take action now and complete the online form. This is about our commitment to keeping the county and our firefighters safe and the commitment of farmers to the health and wellbeing of their workforce.”

The National Farmers Union is backing the work being done by NFRS to help farmers remain within the law when it comes to the safety of their workforce and firefighters should an incident occur.

Harriet Ranson, National Farmers Union County Adviser for Leicestershire, Northamptonshire & Rutland said: “To be compliant with the Fertiliser Industry Assurance Scheme (FIAS) all farmers should notify their local fire service about solid ammonium nitrate stored on their farm. Having this information on file ensures firefighters know what the risks are to you and to them and gives the best chance of a positive outcome.

“In an emergency, our priority must be to ensure people and animals are safe and that we prevent pollution into the environment.”

Farmers can access the form on Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service’s website and can find further detail about the regulations on the HSE website.

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