Preventing Fires at Work
According to government statistics 2018/19, there were approximately 11,234 fires at non-domestic buildings - primarily commercial, health and education buildings. Many fires are considered to be preventable with the right measures, and it is every employer's responsibility to ensure that the correct measures are taken in their workplace.
The two main hazards that you need to look for in your fire risk assessment are sources of ignition and sources of fuel. By first identifying and then reducing these hazards, you can reduce your risk and prevent fires. The Health & Safety Executive offer helpful resources and information.
Many fires can be caused by faulty electrical equipment; frayed wiring can create sparks, overloaded circuits can overheat and, in combination with the presence of a fuel source, this can quickly lead to a fire. It is important to check electrical equipment on a regular basis, and replace anything that could lead to a hazard. This should always be done by trained professionals and ideally a company who offers a full installation and maintenance service to ensure that nothing is missed.
As portable heaters can easily be knocked over, placed dangerously or insufficiently guarded, their use should be avoided if an alternative is possible. However, at the same time, you need to ensure that your workers are comfortable. Where portable heaters are the only solution, choose a well-reviewed brand with automatic cut-offs if overheating occurs.
Clutter in the workplace provides a ready source of fuel for any fire; cardboard boxes and waste paper are prime examples. Make sure that all your waste is kept safely in suitable bins; Make sure it is regularly collected by either your local council services or a commercial recycling service. Clutter can also contribute to fire risks by blocking exits and by hindering access for rescue equipment.
Sadly arson risks must be considered by many businesses, whether your business is open to the public or not. Whether it's mischievous children playing with fire or adult fire raisers, the best way to prevent arson is through good security measures. Ensure that any potential sources of fuel that you cannot remove from the premises are monitored by staff - directly if possible, or through CCTV if not - as this will discourage most offenders.
By following these steps, you will be able to identify hazards and reduce the risk of a preventable fire happening in your workplace. For more tips, and specific advise on your own workplace, you can always contact your local fire and rescue service, who will be happy to help you put prevention measures in place.