Home > Safety, Security > Workplace Fires: It Doesn’t Take Much

Workplace Fires: It Doesn’t Take Much

Workplace fires are easily started. After all, there’s plenty of oxygen in the air anywhere in your workplace to support a fire. And in most work areas both of the other two components of fire are also readily available. Paper trash, cardboard, wood, cloth, flammable liquids, and many other materials provide fuel for a fire. Ignition sources like sparks, heat, flames, or electricity might not be hard to come by either.

Put oxygen, fuel, and an ignition source together, and you have a fire. It’s all too simple!

Of course, often there’s another factor involved—carelessness. Somebody has to be careless enough to put all three fire-starters together. And if employees haven’t been thoroughly trained (and periodically retrained) in fire safety and aren’t fully aware of fire hazards in the workplace, yet another factor—ignorance—might come into play.

Here’s an example:

A container leaks a considerable amount of flammable liquid onto the floor. As the liquid evaporates, flammable vapors are released into air. An employee working nearby is using a metal tool that creates a spark. The spark ignites the vapors, and in seconds a fire has started. If there is enough vapor, or if the fire makes it back to the flammable liquid container, the container might explode.

All three basic elements of fire- fuel, oxygen and heat- existed here, plus the added dimensions of carelessness and ignorance. Why hadn’t the leak been detected and corrected? And what about the employee who started the fire? Shouldn’t he have known to use nonsparking tools when working in an area around flammable liquids?

Here’s another example:

A worker sneaking a smoke out on the loading dock tosses an incompletely extinguished cigarette butt into a pile of cardboard and paper trash that’s been allowed to collect into a sizable mound. It takes a while, but eventually the trash starts burning. If it goes unnoticed for long, the fire could easily spread.

Again, all the elements for starting a fire were present. Plus an employee was careless enough to ignore smoking rules and toss his butt into a pile of trash. And someone else—maybe the same employee—was careless enough to allow the trash to build up, when it should have been properly disposed of.

The Bottom Line

The less likely you believe a fire has a chance of occurring in your workplace, the more likely the possibility. The complacency and inattention to prevention that accompanies attitudes such as that, will ultimately produce the conditions needed for a fire to start. If you believe a workplace fire is not likely to occur, there is a great chance that your planning for such emergencies falls far short of adequate. Any written plan present most probably is a boilerplate template that was never really examined, much less edited to apply to your specific work environment.

Take workplace fire prevention seriously, even if you think it unlikely to happen.

Categories: Safety, Security
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