Posted: January 3rd, 2023

The threat of fire is ever-present no matter how many preventative steps you take. With that said, fire training should be a top priority.

It’s imperative for your personnel to know how to stop a fire should one break out.

In this post, we’re going to look at the basics of how fires start, what are the common ignition sources, and the top ways you can quickly snuff out a fire before it gets out of control.

So without further ado, let’s dive right on in.

The Science Behind Fire

How do fires start?

Three elements are needed in order for a fire to start. These are:

·         An ignition source (e.g. lighter, match, sparks from an electrical appliance)

·         A fuel source (e.g. paper, textiles, flammable liquids)

·         An oxygen source (readily available from the air)

As you can see, it doesn’t take much to get a fire going and it is for this reason that there are fire codes and building regulations.

These statutory instruments are designed to create safe working environments and encourage internal fire training.

Now that we know how fires start, what are some of the most common workplace fire causes that you need to keep an eye out for?

Common Workplace Fire Causes

Fire experts tell us that the leading causes of fires in business premises and commercial properties are:

1. Malfunctioning appliances and leads

2. Defective fuel supply

3. Incorrect use of devices, appliances and equipment

4. Leaving things close to heat sources

1. Malfunctioning appliances and leads

Damaged, defective, and faulty devices and appliances are major ignition culprits. Examples include:

·         Old, worn-out, frayed electrical wiring

·         Overloaded sockets

·         Obsolete equipment and appliances

·         Faulty plugs and appliances

Prevention advice

Routine checks for electrical wiring integrity should be conducted regularly. Any identified damaged wires should be replaced immediately as these pose a fire hazard.

A qualified electrician should also examine appliances and Portable Appliances Tests (PATs) carried out where necessary.

Because fire prevention in the workplace is a team effort, employees need to also be reminded not to overload sockets.

2. Defective fuel supply

We’ve seen that fuel is a core requirement needed to start a fire, but what exactly constitutes a defective fuel source?

Common examples include: 

·         Damaged gas pipelines    

·         Faulty electrical cables

·         Incorrect storage of flammable liquids like petrol

Prevention advice

It is mandatory to schedule routine servicing of fuel supplies. Certified gas leak experts should come in on a regular basis to check the integrity of internal and external gas pipelines.

Similarly, qualified engineers should test and check electrical cables all over the premises.

Flammable fuels at the workplace must be stored according to the instructions spelled out in the company’s fire safety plan.

3. Incorrect use of devices, appliances and equipment

With numerous connected devices and equipment in an office, the risk of fire increases exponentially. And here are the most common ways appliances can cause fires:

·         Spilling liquids on electrical devices

·         Leaving ovens, toasters, and microwaves unattended

·         Leaving electrical heaters on

·         Allowing devices to overcharge

Prevention advice

Any liquids spilled on a device must be immediately cleaned up. 

Ovens, microwaves, and toasters must be wiped down routinely to remove grease and dirt. Ensure microwave-safe crockery is used when heating up food.

Before leaving the office, sockets must be unplugged where possible.

4. Leaving things close to heat sources

It’s easy to place items close to a heat source and become absent-minded and forget, making them an easy fire hazard. Here are typical office examples:

·         Leaving paper towels or clothes next to portable heaters

·         Placing tin foil in the microwave

·         Placing devices that need ventilation on non-solid surfaces and in spaces with little air

Prevention advice

Any electrical device has the capacity to generate heat. Therefore, be mindful of what you place next to these heat sources.

Always make sure computers, TVs, or heat-generating appliances have plenty of ventilation. Place computers, even laptops, on hard surfaces and avoid leaving them on couches.

Top 5 Ways to Put Out Workplace Fire

We know from the science of how fires start, that fires are sustained by some type of fuel and oxygen.

In order to put out the fire, we must first understand what type of fire we’re dealing with so we know the best fire suppression tools to use. Here are some of our fire extinguisher tips!

1. How to Put Out Class A Fires

Class A fires are those involving clothing, paper, plastic or wood.

In order to put out a workplace fire involving any of these elements, you will need a foam or water-based extinguisher.

2. How to Put Out Class B Fires

Class B fires are those involving flammable liquids such as alcohol, petrol, gases, or paint.

These fires must never be extinguished with a water extinguisher but instead with a carbon dioxide, powder or foam fire extinguisher.

The nozzle of the fire extinguisher must be aimed at the base of these types of fires to avoid a flare-up.

3. How to Put Out Class C Fires

Class C fires involve electricity and as such need special care.

A dry powder or carbon dioxide fire extinguisher is deployed. A blanket may be used to smother any lingering flames.

If it is safe enough to unplug any connected devices do so. Alternatively, switch off power to the electrical devices at the main switch.

4. How to Put Out Class D Fires

Class D fires are rare and involve the ignition of metals such as aluminum, potassium, and sodium. Their suppression expressly requires a dry powder fire extinguisher.

5. How to Put Out Class K Fires

Class K fires typically occur in commercial kitchens where food is prepared using vegetable or animal fats and oils. Such fires warrant a wet chemical extinguisher.

Best Practice: Always Call Emergency Services

Evacuate employees to a safe assembly point and if you suspect that you cannot control the fire, be sure to immediately call the fire department for help. This is particularly true in the case of electrical fires. 

The Bottom Line

Accidental workplace fires can be stopped before they turn into full-blazes by implementing any of the best practices mentioned above.

As fire safety experts we are convinced of the importance of educating your employees about fire safety. If you don’t have a current fire prevention plan and would like help to develop one, contact All Protect.

We can also design custom fire safety plans, conduct on-site routine testing, fire training, gas detection, inspections, and maintenance of fire protection systems such as sprinklers, fire extinguishers, fire alarms, emergency lighting, emergency backup generators, and exit lighting. 

Furthermore, if you are looking to upgrade your current fire systems we make recommendations for fire protection solutions that fit your budget and your needs.

Request a free quote today.