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November 6, 2019


Lithium-Ion batteries. A guide to the fire risk that isn’t going away but can be managed

The 5 biggest workplace fire hazards

Fires can happen pretty much anywhere but are particularly common in the workplace. In the UK, there are approximately 16,000 non-residential fires reported each year, and a large proportion of these are found to take place at work.

While the cause of these fires can be for any number of reasons, the vast majority of cases simply come down to human negligence and a lack of care and attention. Therefore, to keep businesses protected, it is important to pay particularly close attention to specific areas of the office known to cause a potential fire risk. Earlier this year, IFSEC reported on the most common causes of warehouse fires.

From waste bins to plug sockets, unless you have effective countermeasures like fire doors, extinguishers or concrete barriers in place, you could be putting your office at risk. Listed below are some of the most common workplace fire hazards that you should keep an eye on, to minimise the risk of fire.

  1. Overloaded plug sockets.

fire hazard officeIf you work in an office, you are going to be using a lot of electrical appliances. Whether it be the computer on your desk or the kettle in the kitchen, most common workplaces use electricity to function and rely on a ton of appliances plugged into the wall.

However, overloading these plug sockets can be a fairly common cause of electrical fires, and can be easily avoided by taking the time to look at your current setup. If you are using faulty extension leads or have stuffed too many appliances into the same plug socket, you can increase the potential fire risk due to overheating.

Where possible, try to only use one plug in each socket and avoid using appliances which require 13 amps across the whole socket.

  1. Faulty electrical equipment.

While on the topic of electricity, it isn’t just overloading the plug sockets you need to watch out for. If the electrical equipment you use at the office is faulty or dangerous, this can substantially heighten the risk of an electrical fire.

In order to prevent this, it is important to have a qualified electrician come around to regularly PAT test whether your equipment is still safe to use. It is also important to keep an extra eye out for any signs of loose cables or damaged plugs, and to replace any equipment found to be faulty.

  1. Waste and combustible materials.

While the workplace is slowly becoming more and more paper-free, many offices around the globe still see build-ups of paper, cardboard and other combustible materials. Without the regular disposal of these materials, they can provide plenty of fuel for any potential fires that break out.

For example, if a smoker in your office haphazardly discards a cigarette onto a pile of this material, this could result in a fire which can burn and spread rapidly. Therefore, try to avoid storing rubbish on site or make sure to keep it in a designated area away from the main building.

  1.  Smoking.

If you work with smokers, or you smoke yourself, make sure to dispose of your cigarettes properly and avoid smoking around potentially flammable materials. Your workplace should provide you with special bins to dispose of your used cigarettes, so use these to avoid starting an accidental fire.

Don’t just flick used cigarettes on the ground or stamp them out thinking that will do the job – take the time to dispose of them correctly. Also, avoid smoking indoors and, if you have one, make use of the designated smoking area at your workplace.

  1.  Humans.

Perhaps the biggest cause of fires in the workplace comes simply through human error. Whether it be using equipment incorrectly, causing accidents or leaving cooking unattended, there are several ways in which employee negligence could lead to a fire.

While you can’t remove human error from the workplace completely, there are certain things you can do to limit it having an effect. For example, training staff properly and providing them with advice on the best practices for fire safety is vital.

Likewise, teaching employees what to do if the worst happens and a fire does start is important to ensuring its kept under control and damage is kept to a minimum. All staff should be trained to use the correct type of fire extinguisher, as using one incorrectly could only make things worse.

2023 Fire Safety eBook – Grab your free copy!

Download the Fire Safety in 2023 eBook, keeping you up to date with the biggest news and prosecution stories from around the industry. Chapters include important updates such as the Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 and an overview of the new British Standard for the digital management of fire safety information.

Plus, we explore the growing risks of lithium-ion battery fires and hear from experts in disability evacuation and social housing.


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Leon van der Linde
Leon van der Linde
November 8, 2019 12:29 pm

Another major cause of fires are the energy saver globes. They are fluorescent globes with circuits that can cause fires. I had three globes that;
Exploded with flames
Shorted a light socket out and melted the wires
Went up in flames
Also, houses are wired with surfex that are way below the actual sockets current rating. Many wooden houses and thatched-roof houses that use wooden beams have the surfex cable tied to the wooden beams and the wires heat up, melts and then catches fire.

michael floyd
michael floyd
November 8, 2019 4:24 pm

This article ‘plugs’ the common misconception that sockets are frequently overloaded. Individual plugs are rated up to 13A, so a double socket can supply at a pinch , 26A . The ring main this connects into is usually able to handle 30A before the protection device is tripped. The cabling is rated quite a bit above 30A. Any extension has a fuse limiting its maximum to 13A, just like a single plug. The real problem is arcing and sparking within a plug or overheating. Poor quality connections, loose screws and bad maintenance can lead to these problems. Which? recently found… Read more »

Olusegun Bamiduro
Olusegun Bamiduro
November 9, 2019 2:56 am

Well written