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Fire is a workplace risk that cannot be ignored. Whether you are writing a risk assessment or preparing for a fire audit, understanding and knowing the common causes of fire is key to keeping employees and visitors safe.

We’ve listed the top common causes of fire in workplaces, and how you can reduce the risk of each.

1. Arson

While this may seem dramatic, intentional and criminal fires are one of the most common causes of fire in commercial properties. According to Devon and Somerset Fire Brigade, arson is the most common cause of fire in commercial and retail properties.

How can you reduce the risk of arson?

  1. Ensure you have a thorough close down procedure, which covers checks of the building, all internal and external doors, and that all cupboards are locked and secured.
  2. Install CCTV or a similar deterrent.
  3. If your office is shut down for a particular period of time, consider employing someone to check the building at a regular frequency such as once a day.
  4. Take any waste that is easily combustible away from the main office building and clear any dead plants and leaves from near the main building, as these are easily combustible.

2. Excessive or damaged extension leads

If you are regularly ‘daisy chaining’, the art of attaching extension leads to one another to form a chain, then this is an immediate risk of fire.

Whether you’re using too many extension leads, or trying to max out each socket, overloading plug sockets can lead to electrical faults, fires and broken electronics.

How can you reduce the risk of overloaded electrical sockets?

  1. Unplug any unused equipment. If an employee has left, then their desk should have all the cables unplugged and neatly coiled on the desk, or in a secure place.
  2. Use a labelled cable management system and be intelligent with your wiring. Bunch each desk’s equipment together to make it easier to plug in every day.
  3. If you can, invest in timed switches that turn computers and sockets off at the end of the day to reduce the risk of a fire happening overnight.

3. Un-tested electrical equipment

When using electrics – whether laptops, desktop screens, phone chargers, desk phones and so much more – there’s always a risk of a spark that could start a fire.

The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 require that any electrical equipment in workplaces is kept in safe condition. A competent person can test any electrics to ensure they are in working condition but it’s best to use an electrician or certified PAT tester.

How can you reduce the risk of un-tested electrical equipment?

  1. Record all electronics used in the workplace, and ensure they are checked regularly.
  2. If you have any equipment suppliers, liaise with them to ensure they maintain and test equipment regularly.
  3. Provide electrics to staff, rather than allowing them to use potentially unsafe equipment from home.

4. Clutter and unclean workplaces

Unclean workstations and excessive clutter cause fires. Whether it’s due to dust build up, kitchen grease left unchecked or shredded paper left out, all these are easily combustible and can quickly escalate into a fire.

How can you reduce the risk of fires due to clutter?

  1. Have a Clear Desk Policy, where all paperwork must be organised by the end of the day, and ensure any excessive paperwork is either filed or disposed of.
  2. Employ a regular cleaner to ensure that surfaces and desks remain clean, and that the office is in an organised and orderly state.
  3. Make sure all staff know of their responsibility of cleaning up, and what they need to do.
  4. Conduct regular inspections by a relevant member of staff to ensure that no areas have build up of grime and grease.

5. Negligence

One of the largest causes of fire is negligence.

Whether this is a small fire, such as leaving a stove unattended during cooking, or on a larger scale, such as incorrectly operating machinery, negligence does have serious implications, as there is a risk of fire, which can be caused through improper use and human error.

Where human error is more about everyday accidents, negligence covers more irresponsible behaviour, or by not correctly using machinery, following rules, or similar.

How can you reduce the risk of negligence?

  1. Make clear the disciplinary procedure, and ensure all staff understand the consequences of negligence.
  2. Train staff on the correct and safe handling of all equipment.
  3. Highlight clear fire risks of all areas and provide the correct equipment to counter any risk.

6. Lack of firefighting resources

If a business does not have the correct equipment (in the proper places), such as fire blankets, fire extinguishers or fire buckets, then this can be a cause of the fire getting out of control quickly, rather than it actually starting.

How can businesses reduce the risk?

  1. Regularly get a professional company in to test the fire alarms and ensure they are in working order.
  2. Provide the correct fire extinguishers for each potential fire hazard your company has.
  3. Educate staff on how to report, prevent and stop a fire.

7. Improper storage of materials

Whether your workplace holds flammable materials such as chemicals, or if it’s just paper and files, storing all of these carefully is still important.

Cleaning materials are a key example to any business of a material that can be improperly stored. They don’t even have to be specialist materials such as a highly corrosive chemicals, everyday household cleaning materials can be incredibly flammable.

How can you reduce the risk of flammable materials being stored incorrectly?

  1. Label each product clearly if it is not in its original container.
  2. Lock the cleaning cupboard, or store more dangerous cleaning products in a separate environment.
  3. Ensure excess paperwork is stored in a cupboard, or offsite if possible. Try and keep business essential work online.

How Restorations [UK] can help

Whether you’re writing a risk assessment and want to include us as your preferred restorations company, or want to know about our fire restoration services, please get in touch. We’re happy to help.