Most common causes of office fires and how to avoid them

Posted on 29/11/2017

Fires in commercial offices are surprisingly common - in this short article we take a quick look at the most common of these.

Fires in commercial offices are surprisingly common. Therefore, it is very important to ensure that the correct fire safety measures are in place and that employees are trained to both identify the hazards and know what to do if a fire does break out.  Whilst there are many causes of fires in the workplace – in this brief article we take a quick look at the most common of these. 

Always seek professional advice when considering fire risks and choosing fire protection systems for your office. This article is intended for general guidance only.

Please also consider the General Fire Safety and Further Information and References sections at the end of this article. 

What are the most common causes of office fires?

In our experience they are: 
1. Electrical Negligence
2. Storage and Materials Handling
3. Cooking 
4. Smoking 

1. Electrical Negligence

Negligence is one of the main causes of electrical fires in an office environment. Typically, faulty wiring as a result of not servicing or not taking general care of your equipment is a common cause. 
Faulty wiring may be difficult to spot by the layperson and so businesses must hold electrical installation condition reports in order to comply with the Electricity at Work Act.
Overloaded sockets are another danger. Never overload an extension lead by plugging in appliances that together exceed the maximum current rating stated for the extension lead. This could cause a plug terminated in an electrical wall socket to overheat and possibly cause a fire.
Taking precautions like not stacking or covering electrical hardware that requires air to circulate around it will help avoid any risk of the equipment overheating and catching fire. 
Always ensure that a Portable Appliance Testing regime, also known as PAT, is in place for your office.  Also please consider installing a fire alarm together with fire extinguishers that are suitable for the ‘fuel type’ likely to be encountered in the office.
Click here for an explanation of ‘fuel type’ and more information on Choosing a Fire Extinguisher for your Business.  

2. Storage and Materials Handling

Pay considerable attention to the safe storage of flammable materials such as paper. It is vital to keep heat sources away from them. (Always take extra care when positioning any heat source in your office e.g. heaters)
Always follow the Safety Data sheet for instructions on material storage of all flammable liquids, glues and solvents as they are liable to combust unless stored and used properly.
There is specific legislation relating to hazardous substances, flammable gases and liquids. atmospheres.

3. Cooking 

Surprisingly, kitchens provided for staff are often at the source of fires in offices.  Always ensure that staff do not leave food unattended while it is cooking.  This rule will help reduce the risk of a fire starting. It is important to fit kitchens or other cooking areas with fire blankets, extinguishers and automatic fire detection.  All electrical appliances in the kitchen should be regularly PAT tested by a qualified electrician as mentioned above. 

4. Smoking 

Smoking is a common fire starter in the office and the cause of many deaths in non-domestic fires. Ensure that smoking bins are emptied regularly and provide a sand or water bucket nearby. Ideally a fire extinguisher should be positioned in close proximity to the smoking area and a smoke detector installed where possible. 

About Yee Group 

Yee Group has more than 30 years of experience in installing and maintaining fire alarm systems  in offices.   For more advice and guidance on how to keep your office environment safe and free from the risk of fires contact us at Yee Group 01283 523849.

General Fire Safety Information

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 places a duty on the ‘responsible person’ (usually the business owner) to conduct a fire safety risk assessment in order to determine the fire precautions needed for specific premises.

Yee Group can assist in arranging  fire risk assessments For a free survey and quote contact us  or telephone Yee Group on 01283 523849 and our experienced team will be happy to help. 

Further Information and References

British Standards Institution
Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA)
Department for Communities and Local Government (Fire and resilience section)
Health and Safety Executive.