Fire starts when your attention stops! – Preventative fire guidance for your business

Fire starts when your attention stops! – Preventative fire guidance for your business

Electrical fires remain as one of the most common types of fires within commercial non-domestic premises. However, there are a number of steps a business can take to help reduce the risk of these occurring. The average cost of a fire in a commercial premise is £43,800 of which actual fire damage cost is £27,700. Compare this to preventative measures such as having an EICR carried out and you can see that it makes financial sense to ensure your property is protected as much as it possibly can be.

Generally, most electrical fires can be caused by a number of issues. These are as follows:

  Faulty or poorly maintained electrical equipment
  Faulty or poorly maintained mains wiring within the building
  Irresponsible or misuse of electrical equipment

This is by no means an exhaustive list however they are amongst the top causes of electrical fires within the workplace. So how can we reduce the risk?

The first step should be to carry out an FSRA - fire safety risk assessment which should also be regularly reviewed. This can be conducted in house by a competent person or you can have a fire risk assessor carry it out on your behalf. Your FSRA should underpin all aspects of fire safety within your business premises.

Faulty equipment

A common cause of electrical fires is faulty electrical plug sockets and old electrical appliances. As well as small items of equipment it is advisable to have large electrical appliances maintained and serviced regularly as per manufacturers recommendations. Electrical items that have worn or damaged flex’s should not be used as they can transfer heat onto nearby surfaces as well as present the risk of electrical shock. A common issue in commercial properties can be overheating light fittings. Many premises have lights switched on all day from the minute staff enter the building until they lock up and leave at the end of the day. Consider fitting PIR’s to light units so that they only switch on when required – this can also reduce electricity consumption and save you money in in the longer term. Also consider fitting low voltage LED light units rather than older less reliable halogen-based ones.  

Fixed Wiring Installations

It is important for businesses to make sure their wiring is safe. Depending on the building’s age and usage, electrical inspections should take place on different timescales. An EICR – Electrical Inspection Condition Report is generally conducted every 5 years however if the building is a sleeping risk then it may be prudent to increase the frequency of checks to every 3 years. An EICR report will detail any issues with the buildings wiring requiring attention.

Older buildings may not have the electrical wiring capacity to handle the increased amounts of load from electrical appliances used in today’s business premises, so it is important for wiring in older buildings to be professionally replaced. Always ensure you use a competent tradesman to carry out any electrical work.

PAT Testing

Portable appliance testing should be conducted regularly. This can be done in-house by a suitably trained member of your own staff or an electrician can carry it out. Frequency will be dictated by the type of equipment, how often it is used and whether it is physically moved regularly. Rule of thumb is if a piece of equipment is moved, subject to being pulled or lifted around regularly the PAT testing should be carried out more often than on a piece of equipment that perhaps never or very rarely moves – a TV monitor bolted to the wall for example.

Extension cables

Misuse of extension cables can lead to electrical fires. These should only be used in the short term, but it is very common for them to be used permanently and for them to be ‘forgotten’, stuck underneath tables or behind cabinets.

Multiple extension leads should not be plugged into each other or ‘daisy chained’ If you find you are regularly having to use extension leads it may be prudent and safer to have an electrician install additional mains sockets. If you are using extension cables, make sure they are of good quality and are appropriately fused and ideally have surge protection. Only equipment with a low electrical load should be plugged into extension leads for any length of time. Cable drum type extensions should be unwound fully before using. Also remember that these leads can be a trip hazard in high traffic areas! 

Summary

Electrical fires although very common in commercial premises can be avoided with suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment, timely preventative maintenance, good management practice and basic precautions. You have the power to implement all of these - Don’t let your business become another statistic!

Tomorrow we will be looking at some useful resource’s businesses can use to reduce their risk of electrical fires.

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