Fire is something that most of us assume to be an irregular occurrence. However, the reality is that workplace fires are very common. Whether as a result of a lack of fire prevention measures or poor vigilance, fires at work tend to break out with considerable frequency – and when they do, they can be devastating.
How common are workplace fires?
According to home office statistics there are more than 300 fires a week in non-dwelling residences (i.e. buildings that are not residential, such as offices). Of those 300 fires a week, many are serious and there were 892 non-fatal casualties in a single year as a result. Some of these fires have tragic consequences – non-dwelling fires in one year resulted in 17 deaths.
Why are workplace fires so common?
There are many reasons why workplace fires create such worrying statistics. No building is immune to the risk of fire – the Home Office statistics indicated that 656 hospitals had been the site of a fire, as well as 1,725 shops and 601 offices and call centres. In many cases the damage done by the fire was limited to just a single room or floor of the building. However, in 2,000 of the fires the entire building was affected. From the statistics it’s possible to draw a number of conclusions as to why these workplace fires have a tendency to break out in the first place.
The condition of the building
Poorly maintained premises can create many opportunities for fire to break out. Not only that but it will be much easier and faster for a fire to spread in a building that has been badly maintained and has no fire protection measures in place. This presents great danger to life, as well as the issues that may arise surrounding business continuity.
Equipment and individuals
Fires may be the result of issues with industrial equipment that has not been properly maintained or is not being correctly used, or where staff have been careless with flammable items. In both cases, proper training can help to reduce the risk of a workplace fire breaking out.
A lack of fire protection
Buildings with insufficient fire protection measures in place are at greater risk of experiencing significant destruction and may also pose a bigger risk to the lives of those working within them. In particular, passive fire protection that is inbuilt into the fabric of the building has a big role to play in ensuring that workplace fires don’t turn into something substantial when they are started. Essential passive fire protection measures could include compartmentalisation that will contain a fire in a single area and fire resistant components, such as doors and walls, that will resist the spread of smoke and flames.
Workplace fires are a reality in the UK but are often avoidable. Where they do break out, having the right fire protection measures in place can ensure that people have time to escape and the fire services can be called so that an emergency situation doesn’t become a tragedy.