What Causes a Fire?
Fire in the workplace is almost entirely preventable – making it all the more shocking when businesses are damaged, even destroyed, let alone when people suffer injuries – or even worse…
how do fires start?
It takes three elements to start a fire:
- A source of ignition: this could include include heaters, lights, naked flames such as lighters or candles, faulty electrical equipment, but could be anything that produces heat or a spark.
- A source of fuel: this could be wood such as furniture; paper or cardboard such as office supplies or packaging – anything that could potentially burn.
causes of workplace fires
Taking this into consideration, we can see just exactly how easy it could be for a fire to start in the workplace, and just why fire safety training is so crucial. However, in order to prevent fire, first we must ascertain what actually causes fires to start in the first place. Common causes of fire in the workplace include:
- Faulty Electrics: including loose wires and overheating, old or faulty equipment. Employers must maintain any electrical equipment by law. Usually portable electical appliances are PAT (Portable Appliance Testing) tested annually.
- Flammable or Combustible Materials: not just premises storing flammable/combustible materials – this could be paper, refuse, packaging etc, as detailed above.
- Human Error or Negligence: such as unsafe use of electrical equipment, negligent disposal of smoking equipment, leaving cooking unattended, blocking ventilation as well as carelessness or ignorance of procedures. Fire safety training is essential to avoid this.
- Arson: business premises can be particularly susceptible to vandalism and this sort of fire can spread quickly. Workplaces need proper fire control systems and should install fire shutters and sprinklers where possible to protect their property, as well as CCTV and gates.
statistics on fires
According to the statistics presented during the Chief Fire Officers’ Association’s recent Business Safety Week, over the ten-year period to 2013/14, there were:
- 11,156 fires in retail and vehicle trade premises resulting in 378 casualties, including 12 fatalities
- 8,837 fires in recreational and other cultural services resulting in 115 casualties, including 3 fatalities
- 5,041 fires in restaurants, cafes, pubs, etc. resulting in 270 casualties, including 5 fatalities
- 4,208 fires in schools resulting in 129 casualties
- 924 fires in other educational settings, resulting in 19 casualties
- 3,648 fires in hospitals and healthcare settings, resulting in 412 casualties, including 4 fatalities
- 2,823 fires in industrial premises resulting in 102 casualties, including 1 fatality
- 1,846 fires in hotels, boarding houses, and hostels, resulting in 172 casualties, including 4 fatalities
Sobering reading indeed – not least if most of these fires were, as previously mentioned, entirely preventable. Along with common sense, care and consideration, businesses should carry out regular fire risk assessments and ensure that fire safety training courses are provided for every single member of staff.