Workplace fires cause many people to suffer from burns each year and some prove fatal. For a fire to start or an explosion to occur, three things have to be present:

When oxygen mixes with fuel, and there’s a spark or other source of heat, a fire will start.

Once a fire has started, the best way to reduce injury or death is to get people away from it and out of reach of the smoke. However, the best approach is to prevent fires starting in the first place. A fire will only go out when there is no oxygen, the fuel runs out or the heat is removed by cooling with water or another firefighting measure.

Sources of fuel: flammable liquids (such as paint, varnish, adhesives, solvents and petrol), wood, paper, card, plastics, rubber, foam, flammable gases and dusts such as coal, sugar and grain.

Sources of heat: naked flames, cigarettes and matches, heaters, hot processes (grinding, cooking), lighting equipment and friction.

Sources of oxygen: air in the atmosphere, oxidising materials (for example, bleaches) and oxygen stored in cylinders.

Removing any one of these components will prevent or put out a fire.

Fires injure and kill people through:

  • heat and flames
  • smoke, which can suffocate or poison them
  • collapse of buildings.

Your employer need to make sure that the fire risks in your workplace are managed effectively.

To do this they’ll need to identify:

  • ways to eliminate or reduce sources of:
    • ignition – for example, buying and installing equipment that’s been designed to minimise the risk of fire.
    • fuel – for example, removing flammable materials or keeping them to the minimum amounts needed for the work.
    • oxygen – for example, shutting doors and windows.
  • how much training their staff have had in fire safety.
  • what fire precautions are in place, such as smoke detectors, fire alarms, escape routes and firefighting equipment.

Have an effective way to detect fires and recover from them if they do start.  In particular they need to set up:

  • a system for alerting everyone to a fire and evacuating the premises.
  • regular fire practices to test the emergency systems before a real fire occurs.
  • adequate fire fighting equipment so that trained workers can put out a fire at its early stages without exposing themselves to danger.