Most Common Causes of Workplace Fires (And How to Prevent Them)

Posted in Fire
Published on November 13, 2020

Fire safety is vitally important on any business premises. Regardless of the cause, in the event of a fire, employers are legally obliged to ensure that their building is easy to navigate with a clear escape route. The safety of all employees is in the business owner’s hands. 

A significant first step to adequate fire safety is fire door installation, as doors are crucial in reducing the spread of fire and protecting your employees while they evacuate the building. As well as creating and maintaining a carefully considered escape route, employers should also keep an eye out for potential fire hazards around the office. 

Secondary to the obvious danger to human life, the devastation caused by a fire can be incredibly costly for a business, and not just in terms of building repair. There is the potential for litigation against the employer if they are found to be at fault, and the fire was easily preventable.

Here are some of the most common causes of workplace fires and how to prevent them.

 

Arson

While leading with this cause sounds very dramatic, the National Fire Chiefs Council cited arson as the cause for 50.5% of fires attended in 2017/2018 by fire & rescue services. This is the single largest cause of fires attended by emergency services, and so it shouldn’t be overlooked by employers.

To prevent criminal activity on your premises, ensure that the building is kept well lit at all times and consider investing in CCTV. Any criminal is less likely to target your business if there’s a possibility that they’ll be caught on camera, as even a fire isn’t guaranteed to destroy the footage. 

 

Flammable Materials

Improper storage of flammable materials is a common cause of workplace fires. The risk is greater in workshops and garages, as the sparks from circular saws and cutting equipment can set light to nearby surroundings. In some workshops, sparks could easily reach combustible chemicals and oil barrels, contributing to a ferocious fire with devastating consequences.

The best way to reduce the risk of these fires occurring is to store flammable materials away in a closed, dry and protected environment. If sparks or controlled open flames can’t reach your flammable materials, then your materials won’t catch alight! It’s as simple as that.

 

Faulty Electrical Equipment

In the rare case that an incident does occur, electrical fires are particularly hazardous as they can’t be put out with water. An electrical fire is a costly mistake if not caught and contained quickly. Loose wires, faulty connections and overworked plugs can all cause a spark that turns into an uncontrollable blaze.

Business owners must regularly PAT test the electrical appliances on their premises, as they’re legally required to prove and document that they’re caring for equipment. To minimise the risk of faulty equipment causing a fire, all staff should be trained in electrical safety. Staff that can identify risk are able to correct errors before they cause a fire.

 

Employee Error

Human error, like leaving food in the oven for too long or material over a vent causing overheating, can cause workplace fires. Any carelessness from employees is dangerous in a business environment, but accidents do happen. Fires caused by employee error are harder to avoid, but easier to contain and extinguish upon occurrence. 

To minimise the risk that employee error can introduce to your premises, make sure that fire extinguishers are always readily available. Staff should be trained to the best of your capability to handle the extinguishers. As much as possible, encourage that employees pay full attention to what they’re doing, even when they’re on their break.

 

Being able to prevent fire in the workplace is an unavoidable requirement. Training employees on fire safety and implementing the fire prevention methods above manages the risks and reduces the chances of a fire in the workplace hugely.