Every year, there are approximately 22,000 workplace fires in the UK. Many of these incidents could be prevented with the correct safety equipment, staff education, and fire safety awareness. Understanding the risks is the first step to reducing them, so let's take a look at some of the most common fire hazards in the workplace.
- Human error
- Waste and combustible materials
- Faulty electronics
- Lack of fire safety training
1. Human Error
Astonishingly, the human employees are actually the biggest fire hazards in the workplace! An awful lot of workplace fires are caused by a lack of education and spatial awareness; many of these cases arise when objects are left on hot surfaces, but even something as commonplace as burning a piece of toast in the office kitchen can result in a fire.
Fires caused by employee negligence are easily prevented: educate your staff on the importance of fire alarms and evacuation plans, and by providing fire safety training in the workplace.
There are still a lot of smokers in the UK, and as an employer, you must provide a designated smoking area for employees who smoke - this legislation is in place for a reason. If you're an employee, make sure you stick to your workplace's designated smoking area(s) when it's time for your cigarette break.
Ash trays should be made available for safe cigarette butt disposal. You should never stamp out your cigarette or throw it in a waste bin; if there's still heat, it can start a fire, especially if there are flammable materials in the bin.
3. Waste & Combustible Materials
We are constantly surrounded by combustible materials, though you may not be fully aware of it. Think about all the materials found in the average office: paper, solvents, electric equipment, aerosols, chemicals. The list is almost endless. All of these materials constitute significant fire hazards in the workplace, just as they would anywhere.
It's important to dispose of these materials safely. Even if there's no open flame nearby, certain materials can combust without warning if they're too hot.
Be sure to empty the bins regularly and keep exit routes free of flammable materials to ensure a quick escape. Food can catch fire too, so keep the office kitchen clean - especially any ovens, hobs, microwaves, etc. Burning the toast is one thing - it's quite another to burn the office down!
4. Faulty Electronics
Most modern workplaces rely on electronics to some degree. Computers, kettles, chargers, an abundance of wires and a range of other electronics can all pose a risk to fire safety.
One of the most notable fire hazards in the workplace? Overloaded plug sockets. Remember not to put more than 3000w into a plug socket - you can use this handy calculator to figure out whether you're overloading yours.
Here are some common warning signs of faulty electronics:
- The smell of hot plastic or burning
- Sparks or smoke from wires or equipment
- Blackness or scorch marks on wires / equipment
- Damaged or frayed leads
- Visible coloured wire inside leads
- Melted plastic on casing
- Blown fuses
5. Lack of Fire Safety Training
This is related to the earlier point about human error, but it bears repeating: education really is the key to fire prevention. Make sure to comply with Fire Risk Assessment (FRA) guidelines within the workplace, and train your staff to do the same.
Here are just a few things you can do to comply with the legislation and minimise the potential fire hazards in the workplace:
- Keep fire routes clear
- Never leave fire doors open
- Test your fire extinguishers and alarm systems regularly
- Train staff on an evacuation plan
- Keep office spaces free of clutter and easily-accessible
- Conduct regular fire drills and health and safety briefings
Here at IDS, we specialise in the design, installation and maintenance of fire alarm systems. With 20+ years of industry experience and a 24/7 callout service for maintained customers, safety is always our number one priority.
If your workplace lacks an effective fire detection system, get in touch today to discuss your requirements with a member of the IDS team.
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