The Home Office’s Fire Statistics Monitor has recorded that there were over 300 fire-related fatalities in England during 2015-2016. Fire and Rescue Services (FRS) attended around 162,000 fires, with a 3% increase in fires in non-residential buildings. While the overall increase in fires comes from deliberately started fires, actual fatalities from fires are from accidental fires.
The threat from fire in the workplace is real, and widespread. There are plenty of common fire hazards – so common, in fact, that they are easily overlooked, which is why a fire risk assessment can be so critical in the workplace.
On-site Waste Material
Most workplaces generate a considerable degree of waste. Much of this is paper or cardboard, which makes it a considerable fire risk. Failure to dispose of waste material regularly means it grows in quantity, and with it, the risk increases.
It only takes a discarded cigarette and you can have a serious fire on your hands. The solution is to store as little waste material on-site as possible. In many cases, this means organising frequent waste collections, or find a safe, designated area that is isolated from your main work areas.
Flammable Materials and Liquids
Not all work involves flammable materials and liquids, but for those workplaces where these are commonplace, the risk of fire from them is significant. These might be factories or other industrial premises. Vapours and fumes from these materials are also flammable.
Whether stored in a commercial garage, kitchen, hotel or similar, you should always ensure that containers for these materials and liquids are properly covered and sealed. Even the smallest of sparks can spell disaster.
Hot Surfaces and Electrical Faults
Some machinery and electrical equipment can heat up when in use, which is another potential fire hazard. Heat sources are not always obvious, but where there is the potential for surfaces to get hot, it’s vital that combustible material is kept away from them. This includes paper.
If possible, always unplug any equipment not in use, especially overnight.
One of the most common types of fire is that caused by faulty electrical equipment. Danger signs are loose cabling and damaged plugs, as well as equipment that is erratic. You should have all your electrical equipment properly tested on a regular basis.
Similarly, make sure you’re not overloading any power sockets. This is another common cause of electrical fires. Stick to one plug per socket, and don’t run appliances totalling over 13 amps or 3000 watts from a single socket.
Human Error, Negligence and Smoking
When it comes to workplace fires, we are often our own worst enemies. Many workplace fires arise out of negligence and human error – when we make mistakes or fail to apply proper precautionary measures, safety standards and procedures.
Simple things like spillages and improper use of equipment can have serious consequences. Discarded cigarettes can easily catch fires if not extinguished properly, and smoking shouldn’t be taking place near areas where there are flammable materials.
Fire risk can never be wholly eliminated, but it can be reduced with the proper fire risk assessment training. Contact Comply at Work for more details.