You’re fired: how to prevent fires in the workplace

Workplace fires can have a devastating impact on a business, causing death and serious injury. A workplace fire puts the safety of your employees and visitors at risk, which is why fire safety in the workplace is extremely important. A fire can also result in considerable revenue losses due to the damage and loss of vital data, equipment and buildings, meaning your business operations have to be paused and sometimes even shut down completely.  

As a business owner, you have a legal and moral obligation to protect the health, safety and well-being of any individuals that are affected by your company by managing and preventing hazards. Otherwise, your company will be held accountable. 

As the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) explains, most fires are preventable, and those that have the responsibility of managing health and safety within a business can avoid them by “taking responsibility for and adopting the right behaviours and procedures”. Unfortunately, workplace fires are commonly caused by negligence, ranging from incorrectly storing flammable and combustible materials onsite to merely having messy premises that aren’t properly maintained. 

Here are some of the steps you can take to prevent fires in the workplace, ensuring fire safety for any employees that frequently come into contact with flames or sparks.  

How to prevent fires in the workplace

Maintain electrical equipment

Offices and reception desks are just some of the areas in the workplace where electrical equipment is used, and this can present a considerable fire risk if it’s faulty. You should get computers, printers, and any other electrical equipment regularly PAT tested by an expert, as well as check for damage yourself (such as faulty plugs and loose and exposed cabling). These are regular checks you can carry out to make sure your premises is compliant with fire safety regulations, while providing regular training to your employees can also help you reduce the risk of fires.

Store chemicals safely and securely

For any workplace that’s required to keep flammable liquids, vapours and other materials onsite, it’s vital to ensure that these are stored safely and securely as they could ignite instantly if they came into contact with a naked flame. HSE advises that containers for flammable liquids should be kept closed when not in use, and these should be stored in “suitable cabinets or bins of fire-resisting construction and which are designed to retain spills”. These should be in a designated area of the workplace, away from where everyday activities are carried out. Any flammable liquid and vapour spills also need to be cleaned up as soon as possible. 

Keep premises clean and tidy

A cluttered building does more than just make the workplace look messy. Mess can make it difficult for staff to find the things they need, as well as give the wrong impression to any customers or visitors to your site. A build-up of flammable materials, such as paper documents, plastic packaging and cardboard boxes can cause fires if they’re kept too close to electrical equipment, machinery and other heat sources. Additionally, dust build-up can also present a fire risk in many working environments. To reduce this hazard, clean surfaces and equipment regularly, and install extractor fans for better ventilation.

How to prevent a fire from spreading

For a fire to start and keep spreading, it needs three elements: a source of ignition, fuel and oxygen. With this combination, a fire can take hold and quickly engulf a building in a matter of minutes. If a fire starts on your premises, containing it can help reduce the threat to lives and damage to property. All businesses should therefore have appropriate equipment, located in accessible and well signposted locations, to contain the spread of fire. This equipment should include some or ideally all of the following: 

  • Smoke Detectors
  • Fire Alarms
  • Fire Doors 
  • Fire Extinguishers
  • Fire Sprinklers
  • Fire Hoses
  • Emergency Lighting
  • Emergency Signage
  • Fire Escape Ladders

All business owners are required by law to have fire doors installed throughout their properties as a safety feature to prevent the spread of fire. These should be kept free of obstructions at all times and not kept wedged open. Fire doors must be regularly checked and kept in good working order, as if a fire does happen, these will help to keep smoke, flames and heat contained.

Ensuring safety in the event of a fire

If a fire were to occur in your building, you also need to have the correct procedures in place to mitigate the danger and make sure everyone is able to leave your premises quickly and safely. Here are some of the precautions you should take: 

  • Fire doors should be made easily accessible by keeping them clear of clutter and ensuring their locations are clearly signposted throughout the building. 

  • Have a fire evacuation plan in place that all employees are aware of and have been adequately trained to implement. This should involve regularly practising fire drills and showing staff how to activate the nearest fire alarm when needed. 

  • Inspect your building’s fire extinguishers once a month and ensure they are regularly serviced so that they function correctly in the event of a fire occurring in your workplace. 

When do employees need flame resistant workwear?

Workers that are involved in welding and grinding will frequently come into contact with sparks, which means they need to wear suitable protective workwear, such as flame-resistant garments and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). This includes eye and head protection, gloves, and suitable footwear.  

At phsBesafe, our range of flame-resistant workwear is compliant with the necessary safety standards, and all garments have been designed to further protect those working in confined spaces by increasing their freedom of movement. Contact us to find out more. 

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