Fires in the workplace can be caused by many things, from electrical faults to combustible materials. In 2012, there were 19 deaths as a direct result of workplace firesso it is incredibly important to ensure that you know what the five most common causes of fire in the workplace are, and how you can avoid them.
1 Faulty Electrics
Faulty electrics are one of the most common causes of workplace fires. This can be anything from overloaded plug sockets and loose cabling to outdated equipment. Ensuring that all of your electrical products in the workplace are thoroughly checked regularly is essential to ensuring that your staff are working in a safe environment. Portable Appliance Testing (PAT) is a legal requirement here in the UK and must be carried out be qualified (and accredited) personnel, so check the credentials of the company you choose to help you ‘sign off’ your workplace.
Another common cause of fire in the workplace is human error. With appropriate knowledge and training, this can be easily avoided. Burning food in the staff kitchen or spilling drinks on electrical equipment can lead to fires, so it is essential that all of your staff members are aware of the potential risks to their actions and that they are also familiar with the fire extinguisher locations.
3 General Negligence
Similar to human error, general negligence is another common cause of workplace fires. General negligence and irresponsible behaviour in the office can lead to fires that are easily avoidable. Stacks of paper left on top of a hot printer could easily ignite and start a fire, so bear this in mind when storing office supplies. Similarly, a large rubbish pile will not only add fuel to the fire to enable it to spread, it can also block vital escape paths out of the building so make sure the bin is emptied as soon as it is full.
4 Combustible or Flammable Materials
Flammable solvents and gases can both be a cause and a stimulant of workplace fires so they must be treated with adequate respect. This means that hazardous materials must be kept in suitable storage and must be correctly disposed of.
Arson is becoming increasingly more commonplace, especially within shops and retail workplaces. Often attributed to vandalism or something worse, arson often causes the worse damage amongst fires because it is the intention of the criminal to cause as much damage as possible to the property. Sprinkler systems are a great way of reducing the damage deliberate fires can cause and if you own a shop it is often a good idea to install fireproof shutters. Another effective way of reducing fire damage is to install elements of passive fire protection, such as intumescent seals around the internal doors, and ensure that different areas within the office building are compartmentalised.
Besides reading this article, it is strongly advisable that your all of your staff members regularly attend fire safety training programs. This will ensure that they are aware of potential fire hazards and they know how to deal with them.
Jill Henderson is a representative for Health and Safety Signs who are retailers of fire exit signs, and fire safety signs.