Fire isn’t necessarily the most common of accidents within the workplace, but if it happens, it can be deadly. The devastation caused by flames ripping through your building can destroy years of work in only minutes. The consequences of fires can be expensive for your company – the interruption to business with your premises potentially being uninhabitable, the cost of replacing stock and assets, not to mention the loss of valuable client records and information.
We have identified the most common causes of fire in the workplace, and what you can do to help prevent them.
Faulty electrics and electrical equipment
Loose wires, faulty connections, and overloaded plug sockets and extension leads can all result in electrical fires. This type of fire is not just limited to office space; it can take hold in any work environment such as shops, warehouses, and workshops. Because most businesses are reliant on even the smallest form of technology, there will always be the risk of unmaintained equipment becoming dangerous.
Business owners are legally required to take care of electrical equipment and regular PAT testing (portable appliance testing). PAT testing is generally carried out between 12, 24 and 48 months depending on the type of equipment. Because of the nature of electrical fires, these cannot be put out with water which makes them all the more hazardous.
It is imperative that you have the correct fire extinguishers installed by experts who will train you in their use.
Lack of training within your team
We all know that accidents happen through nobody’s fault. Equipment can burn out that is relatively new or in previously good working order. Would you and your staff know how to deal with a fire at a moment’s notice? Or indeed, whether it could have been preventable in the first place.
If a fire should break out, it is essential that all staff are aware of the correct procedures. As an employer it is your duty of care, and a legal requirement that your employees know the evacuation process. Failure to comply could leave you with a lawsuit for negligence if the worst should happen. You should appoint a fire safety monitor who will be responsible for taking any required remedial action (eg. the use of fire extinguishers) before the need for calling the emergency services.
Lack of Fire prevention equipment
The most basic of fire prevention equipment is the humble smoke detector. It is, in most circumstances illegal to operate in a business premises without them. Maintenance and testing are essential to ensure they are in good working order at all times.
It is also a legal requirement in accordance with the Fire Safety Order to install the correct types of fire extinguisher suited to your business. You may not be able to procure business insurance, or your current policy could be invalid without having a fire risk assessment carried out. Your assessor will advise you about the installation of fire extinguishers in appropriate areas of your building. Your local Fire Safety company will be able to take care of this for you, one of the services which Swift Fire & Safety offer.
Incorrect storage of combustible materials
Failure to correctly store combustible and flammable materials is a huge contributor in the incidence of fires that could have been avoided. For example, businesses that rely on power tools that could throw out sparks (welding or grinding equipment) should never have flammable materials close to the working areas. The same can be said of chemicals which should never be near naked flames.
By ensuring that all materials are stored efficiently, the risk of fire is greatly reduced. If your business holds large quantities of stock, such as paper products for example, it is essential that procedures are met, and that stock is stored immediately after delivery.
Negligence and/or human error
There are a number of scenarios whereby fire is caused by either negligence or human error. Carelessly discarded items left close to heat sources, unattended food left to burn in the staff room or kitchen, cooling and fan vents on technical equipment blocked by office paraphernalia, using equipment incorrectly – the list is endless! Every person in your employ should be responsible for their own health and safety and should be accountable for their actions, whether they are accidental or negligent.
Fire safety and Health and Safety courses are available and should be completed by your staff. Your local fire safely officer will be able to help you find the appropriate course for your business which can often be completed online.
Sadly, arson is not as rare as we would like to believe. Statistics suggest that over 45% of serious fires in the UK are caused by arson. Large industrial buildings and commercial businesses can be a target for vandals and other criminal activity.
Unfortunately, there is little that can be done to eliminate the risk of your business being targeted 100%, but there are measures that can be taken to make it less attractive to the criminal fraternity. Identify where your building may be vulnerable and install a visible alarm system and CCTV. These security systems are a considerable deterrent to would be criminals.
If you are concerned that these systems will not be enough of a deterrent, then an added layer of security could come in the form of an interior sprinkler system. Once activated, sprinklers greatly reduce the amount of damage caused if fire were to break out either by accident or criminal activity.
You can find out more about our Fire Extinguisher Installation and Maintenance services here.