13th August, 2019

50 Potential Fire Hazards In The Workplace

The first step of any fire risk assessment is to identify fire hazards. Fire hazards in your workplace are anything that may create a fire. If you know the fire triangle, then it will be no surprise that fire hazards come into three categories: ignition, fuel and oxygen.

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The first step of any fire risk assessment is to identify fire hazards. Fire hazards in your workplace are anything that may create a fire. If you know the fire triangle, then it will be no surprise that fire hazards come into three categories:

These are the 3 things needed for a fire. Ignition, fuel and oxygen.

Why is identifying fire hazards so important that it is the first step in fire risk assessment? Because once you know the hazards, you can calculate the risk. And then you can work on ways to reduce the risk and prevent fires happening.

You might not be able to remove all of the fire hazards in your workplace. Fire hazards are everywhere, and when you go through the list, you will probably find that many exist in your work environment. But remember fire needs all three elements, of fuel, heat and oxygen to survive. Control these hazards. Keeping them apart. Reduce the risk.

Let's go through the list of some common examples that might tell you there is a potential fire waiting to happen at work.

Ignition fire hazards

The majority of fires need an ignition source to start. Identifying ignition sources in your workplace is important so that you can remove them, or control them. Not all ignition sources can be removed. But, where they can't be removed, they can be separated from combustible materials and other fuel sources.

  1. Smoking materials
  2. Electrical faults
  3. Overheating machinery
  4. Radiated heat
  5. Cooking equipment
  6. Portable and fixed heaters
  7. Sparks from equipment
  8. Overloaded electrical circuits
  9. Static electricity
  10. Friction
  11. Hot surfaces
  12. Steam pipes
  13. Electrical equipment
  14. Boilers
  15. Welding equipment
  16. Naked flames
  17. Hot works processes

It's important to consider the use and location of ignition sources. Electrical equipment might be perfectly safe for everyday use. But, take it into a flammable atmosphere, and the risk increases dramatically.

Fuel fire hazards

Fuel is needed to burn for a fire to start, and to maintain the fire. When we talk about fuel as a fire hazard, we don't just mean petrol and diesel, the fuel you fill up your car with. Fire is not fussy and accepts a wide variety of fuel sources. Fuel for fire can come in the form of combustible materials, oils, flammable liquids and gases. Removing the fuel, reducing fuel, and separating the fuel from ignition sources are all ways to minimise fire risk.

The type of fuel will usually determine which of the 6 classes of fire is created, and the type of fire extinguisher that needs to be used to attack it.

So what types of fuel are present in your workplace? Here are some examples:

  1. Paper
  2. Cardboard
  3. Packaging
  4. Waste
  5. Furniture
  6. Textiles
  7. Fixures and fittings
  8. Electrical insulation
  9. Metals
  10. Wood
  11. Plastics
  12. Foam
  13. Sealants
  14. Structural materials
  15. Wall linings
  16. Ceiling linings
  17. Flooring
  18. Cladding
  19. Paints
  20. Inks
  21. Adhesives
  22. Cleaning fluids
  23. Chemicals
  24. Liquids
  25. Solvents

Most furniture, fixtures, fittings are flame-resistant, but not all. It's best to check to make sure. Finishes can deteriorate over time so look for signs of wear and tear.

Fires need fuel to burn

Structural materials are not easily combustible, but some are covered with layers of cardboard or wallpaper which may spread the fire. There have been cases recently regarding cladding (e.g. Grenfell) acting as a fuel source and quickly spreading the fire. So never assume that building materials are non-combustible.

Flammable chemicals, liquids and solvents need to be stored correctly and used safely to reduce fire risks. Flammable liquids give off vapours that can travel, so careful consideration of the distance from ignition sources is needed.

Oxygen fire hazards

Oxygen is everywhere. We need it to survive, and luckily for us, it's in the air we breathe. Fires also need oxygen to survive. Knowing where oxygen is readily available, and how it can be stopped, can help prevent fire spread.

  1. Open windows
  2. Open doors
  3. Natural ventilation
  4. Air conditioning systems
  5. Holes in the structure
  6. Oxidising materials
  7. Oxygen cylinders
  8. Oxygen systems

Not all ventilation is bad. Sometimes, you might need good ventilation to reduce the risk of fire. For example, when storing or using flammable liquids, good ventilation can prevent the build-up of vapour and the creation of a flammable atmosphere.

This list is just an example, and your workplace may have different hazards present. Identify fire hazards through a simple walk around or inspection, use this list to help you look for fire dangers. Identify items from each source - ignition, fuel and oxygen. How do they interact with each other? Give particular attention when ignition sources are close to fuel sources. Could they create a fire risk?

And don't forget to think about the type of work that is carried out. It's easy to just look at an empty work area and forget what happens in it. Especially when an activity might just be carried out once a month, or once a year. Maintenance or cleaning work. Work carried out by contractors. Before a new task is carried out, assess if it introduces any new sources of ignition, fuel or oxygen. Does it create a fire risk? Does it make the atmosphere flammable or unsafe? Could it spark a fire?

You can find out more about the types and classes of fire, or carry out a fire risk assessment for your business.

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This article was written by Emma at HASpod. Emma has over 10 years experience in health and safety and BSc (Hons) Construction Management. She is NEBOSH qualified and Tech IOSH.

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