A workplace fire can have devastating effects. Causing possible fatalities and injuries to employees, while crippling the business by destroying stock and even the whole building, many factors can increase the risks of a fire in the workplace, so it's vital that the appropriate safety measures are taken to combat potential hazards.
According to the safety watchdog, the Health and Safety Executive, the most common cause of workplace fires in the UK is faulty electrics, whether it's a wiring issue or a malfunction with electrical equipment.
Although the Fire and Rescue Service says the total number of fires has steadily declined over the past decade thanks to improved safety procedures, there's no room for complacency. Read on to find out more about the top five causes of workplace fires...
- Faulty equipment
Faulty electrical equipment is the main cause of workplace fires. Defective electrics with loose wires or equipment that overheats are the most common causes of fires. To combat the risk of fire hazards, workplace equipment must be inspected on a regular basis by a qualified electrician and any potential faults dealt with immediately.
Failure to clean the workplace and leaving piles of clutter and dust is a fire hazard, as well as unhygienic. A fire can quickly take a hold of a build-up of dust and grease, especially in poorly ventilated areas. Similarly, dust on equipment and machinery can cause overheating and subsequently a fire if unattended. Hot work, such as welding and soldering, is a major culprit of combustible dust fires, generating sparks that can easily ignite the dust. The solution, of course, is regular cleaning and inspections.
Items such as cardboard, paper and wood tend to accumulate on-site in many workplaces. If combustible materials build up, they will provide fuel for a fire and it can spread rapidly. Companies that recycle packaging, such as cardboard boxes, are particularly at risk unless they store the waste material properly. The solution is to store such materials in locked containers off-site and make sure they are disposed of regularly.
- Human error
Human error can often be a factor in workplace fires. When a lot of people use the workplace every day, mistakes can and will happen! Not using equipment correctly, failing to report faulty machinery and even leaving food unattended while cooking in the staff canteen, these can all lead to fire. All employees should have basic fire safety training to make sure they know how to follow the correct fire safety procedures.
Arson accounts for a large percentage of fires on business premises. A study of non-dwelling premises in 2014 revealed there had been 4,950 deliberate fires in one year, accounting for around 25% of the total number of blazes. Businesses can install deterrents such as CCTV and motion-sensor lighting. In addition, security should be stepped up to ensure no unauthorised persons can gain access.
In all cases, fire safety equipment such as fire sprinklers can be fitted throughout the premises to limit damage in the event of a blaze, particularly outside working hours. Home Office statistics showed 46% of fires in England occurred in a relatively small time bracket - between 4pm and 10pm in 2014 and 2015, when business premises were often unattended.
According to statistics, the workplaces said to be most at risk from fires are retail premises, where there were around 3,000 fires in 2014. Industrial premises have the second highest risk (2,500 fires during the same period) and third are pubs, restaurants, cafes and takeaways (2,200 fires).
Smoke alarms are of paramount importance in business premises. All business owners are legally responsible for ensuring their premises are properly protected from fire risks and they must take all of the appropriate measures to ensure the safety of their workforce.
Data published by the Fire and Rescue Service in 2017 revealed the number of fire incidents had decreased over the past decade, but fires in industrial buildings were still a cause for concern, having caused a total of seven deaths.
The fire service has stated that while the decrease in incidents is a positive step, it is still important to have robust fire safety arrangements in place. They advise all businesses to ensure they have an up-to-date fire risk assessment of the premises before installing the relevant safety mechanisms.
Trelawney Fire and Security’s services can help to ensure a safer workplace. Protect your employees and your property with our top-of-the-range fire safety and security devices. With more than 25 years’ experience in the industry, we have the knowledge and expertise to provide reliable solutions.
For information on our services, including fire alarm and extinguisher systems, CCTV systems, access control and intruder alarms, please contact us without delay.