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Workplace Fires

1.1. Combustible & Flammable Materials
Improper storage of these materials is a common contributor to workplace fires - as sparks from workplace activities are known to have ignited surrounding materials and chemicals. In certain spaces, these might include materials such as flammable chemicals, or oil barrels.

Given the tangible dangers that such hazardous materials pose to employees and visitors, every workplace be focused on fire safety as a top priority, and it should be included in regular risk assessments. However, such fires can occur even when everything is in its proper place, too. Warehouses are known to be at a particularly high risk of fire due to the large quantities of stock and materials they often hold (paper, for example).

1.2 Faulty Electrical Equipment

Topping our list is one of the singularly biggest causes of workplace fires. Loose wires, overloaded plugs and faulty connections can all result in dangerous electrical fires. One of the reasons it’s quite so common is that it can happen anywhere, offices, workshops and warehouses alike. Cost-saving measures can often play a part, as businesses put off replacing technically functional but worn-out equipment. They always require investment, true, but the safety aspects are priceless!

It’s worth remembering that business owners are legally required to care for electrical equipment, and regular PAT testing (that is, Portable Appliance Testing) is vital. Electrical fires are particularly hazardous because they can’t be put out with water. It’s just one more reason to make sure your fire extinguisher is always topped up and in good working order!

1.3 Arson

More common than most think, 36% of fires in educational institutions are started unintentionally, 10% in office spaces and 6% in healthcare facilities!

Understanding the root cause of an issue is the first and only way to tackle it. You have to know about the risks you're dealing with so that your fire protection systems are planned out in accordance with the threats. While there are many causes for commercial fires, it's important to remember to address them, and not dust them away. Addressing them does not have to be a plight or an overwhelming task, you can always get in touch with fire protection experts who will provide you with all the solutions that you would need! We hope this blog has helped you introspect on the safety of your own establishment, after all, like they say, prevention is always better than cure! 

1.4 Negligence and Human Error

Approximately 10% of commercial fires were unintentional and are a result of negligence. Human errors such as leaving electric heaters on, disposing cigarette butts nonchalantly, or overloading old extension boards which spark fires are all common causes of fires in commercial spaces.

1.5 Smoking Paraphernalia

Smoking kills in more ways than one. Improper disposal of lit cigars or cigarettes is one of the most common causes of fires. Smoking materials remain one of the top five most common causes of commercial fires. They are responsible for 9% of fires in office complexes, 7% of fires in eateries, and 5% of fires in healthcare facilities. Cigarette buds tossed in the trash can easily ignite into flames, which is a very common cause of fires in general. Flammable liquids

1.6 Electrical Hazards

It is well known fact the more than 70% of workplace fires originate from Electrical Equipment, Cables etc. More than 50% of such fires could be avoided by taking care of essentials of Electrical Safety.

The issue with electrical fires is twofold - they may be caused either by malfunctions or human error. Electrical malfunctions are more common and can have extremely dangerous repercussions.

Malfunctions include Improper wiring, Wrong cable type, size, Cable laying, Terminations etc. Lack of maintenance, Wrong and/or Cheap Equipment / Switchgear, Inadequate Circuit Protections, Missing or inadequate Auto-Activated Panel Fire Protection system.

1.7 Cooking equipment

This is by far one of the biggest causes of commercial fires. Around 29.3% of nonresidential fires are cooling related. What's more is that 1 out of 4 office building fires can be traced back to cooking mishaps. Since commercial kitchens operate with high volumes of electricity and flammable ingredients and equipment, the hazards are multiplied. Cooking equipment such as deep fryers, ranges, ovens, grills, barbecues, and rotisseries all create risks of explosions and electric fires. Cooking equipment attributes to 61% of all restaurant fires, making it one of the leading causes. To put things further into perspective, 4,500 fires a year are caused due to cooking in commercial spaces.

1.8 Dust

Many processing and manufacturing activities produce dust particles that cause poor indoor air quality. Even worse, this seemingly innocent dust can ignite and cause a fire or an explosion. Facilities handling materials such as grains, seeds, food, paper, plastics, metals, pharmaceuticals, textiles, and pesticides generate these airborne particles.

High-efficiency cartridge-style dust collectors are an effective way to mitigate dangerous working conditions, manage combustible dust hazards and meet regulations. However, collectors are one of the primary sources of combustible dust explosions because they hold large amounts of dust in an enclosed area.

1.9 Faulty Electrical Equipment, Overloaded Circuits

Defective Electrics such as loose wires, faulty equipment, or Overloaded Power Sockets that can overheat and cause sparks, are common causes of fires in the workplace. It is essential that workplace equipment is regularly inspected and replaced upon any signs of electrical damage.

1.10 Heat and Heating Equipment

In extreme cases, conductive heat might even start a fire that puts workers at risk of injury or death. If there's enough heat and flammable materials present, heat conduction can cause fires. These fires can spread quickly and are difficult to control. In some cases, they might even lead to explosions.

1.11 Poor Housekeeping & Clutter

Accumulated clutter can increase the risk of fires by obstructing escape routes and providing fuel for flames.

Cluttered spaces make it challenging to control or escape fires quickly.

Regular decluttering, proper storage of items, and maintaining clear pathways can help minimize fire hazards.

1.12 Combustible Liquids and Gases

1.13 Lack Of Training to Employees

It’s an unavoidable fact of life that accidents happen. Perfectly serviceable equipment might burn out unexpectedly, or certain materials might turn out to be suddenly flammable. While not all fires have a perpetrator (accidental or not), proper training for all staff is vital for both dealing with these circumstances and avoiding them in the first place. This can prevent innocent mistakes that might later turn out to be catastrophic – for example, unknowingly blocking the vents of electrical equipment that requires air to keep itself cool, or unwitting improper storage of the materials like we mentioned above. Naturally, educating staff on the nature of various flammable materials should be an absolute top priority when it comes to training them on proper procedure.

1.14 Cooking

Cooking is a common activity in workplaces, whether it’s in a restaurant, office kitchenette, or industrial setting. However, it also poses significant risks if not done safely. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), cooking equipment is a leading cause of workplace fires. To ensure the safety of employees and property, it’s crucial to follow NFPA standards and implement safety measures. Consider these essential tips for cooking safety in the workplace, referencing NFPA standards.

Install Adequate Fire Suppression Systems. The first line of defense against workplace fires is an effective fire suppression system. According to NFPA 96: Standard for Ventilation Control and Fire Protection of Commercial Cooking Operations, it is essential to have a well-maintained and properly functioning fire suppression system in commercial kitchens. Regular inspections and maintenance are key to ensuring that these systems are ready to respond in case of a fire.

1.15 Lack of Resources, Maintenance of Installed Equipment

It sounds basic, but you might be surprised at how many businesses continually neglect this step. Above all, prevention is key, and that means investing in the resources that are specifically designed to keep people safe. Smoke detectors need to be installed, powered and active, and the same goes for fire alarms. We’ve mentioned the importance of having filled and functioning fire extinguishers.

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