Top Causes of Workplace Fires

Each year, fire erupts at some 70,000 U.S. workplaces, killing 200 employees, injuring thousands, and causing billions of dollars in property damage. Most workplace fires are the result of human behavior rather than equipment failure, which means they can be prevented with a proactive program reinforced by training. Keep reading to find out the most common causes of workplace fires and the simple strategies that can keep your facility safe.

Heating equipment, such as improperly installed, operated, or maintained furnaces. Every furnace or heater has minimum clearance distances on all sides and above; make sure to keep material and building components away from this area. Never store combustible material in furnace rooms. And do not use temporary heating units in public buildings.

Electrical. Misused, overloaded, damaged, or improperly maintained electrical equipment is a common cause of workplace fires. Do not leave cords coiled up when plugged in. Only use extension cords for temporary power for equipment in use at the moment. Use multiple outlet strips for computer equipment, not for appliances or other electric equipment. Avoid overloading circuits.

Cooking equipment. Microwaves, coffeemakers, and stoves can cause fires if they are misused. Make sure all break room equipment is equipped with smoke detectors. Never leave cooking unattended, and follow microwave popcorn instructions carefully.

Mechanical friction. Improperly maintained or cleaned mechanical equipment can lead to a fire. Keep bearings properly lubricated and aligned. And keep conveyors and mobile equipment cleaned and free of accumulations of combustible material.

Housekeeping. Poor housekeeping practices are a common cause of fire. Avoid excessive storage of boxes and other combustible material. Make sure stored material never blocks exits, walkways, electrical panels, or emergency equipment.

Proximity hazards. Watch out for hazards outside of buildings, such as other buildings within 100 feet of your site. Other hazards include nearby fuel tanks, dumpsters, and weeds, grass, and brush.

Smoking. If you still permit smoking in your facility you may want to reconsider. Unauthorized smoking or poor setup of smoking areas can put everyone at risk for fire.

Special hazards. Take extra precautions if you have cutting/welding and other hot work that can produce flames, slag, or sparks. Other special hazards include flammable liquid storage and handling; spontaneous combustion from oily rags, chemicals, hay, and leaves; commercial cooking equipment; and LPG and natural gas.