Potential fire hazards in the work place

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Potential fire hazards in the work place
A workplace fire can be lethal and terrifying. (Gary Cornhouse/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Fire in the workplace poses a hazard to health, property and safety. If a fire is not detected and put out immediately, it can easily become uncontrollable, threatening the lives of anyone on the premises and destroying an entire workplace. Therefore, the time to deal with a fire is long before it starts by identifying and removing all potential fire hazards.

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Heat sources

Whether they produce heat using electricity, gas, oil or some other fuel, heat sources are a frequent cause of fire in the workplace. The heat sources themselves might malfunction, or they might be operating too close to flammable materials due to human error. Ovens, stove burners, baseboard heating elements and portable heaters that run on electricity, propane and kerosene all present potential fire hazards if they are not used with caution.

Electricity

Electricity may cause fires if electrical systems have not been properly installed, if wiring is worn or damaged or if circuits are repeatedly overloaded. A well-built electrical system has integral safety measures such as breakers or fuses that prevent fires. If these measures have been neglected or are improperly installed and a circuit has too great a load on it, a fire can result.

Construction sites are at an increased risk for electrical fires because the electricity is often being worked on. During the time that the system is in transition, both workers and property are at greatest risk.

Flammable materials

Wood, paper, cardboard and fabric are examples of flammable materials that need to be kept well away from heat sources and electricity. These materials can act as kindling that could burn undetected long enough to set the building itself fire. Also, fire needs oxygen to continue burning. Therefore, a flammable material such as paper that is tossed around or in loose piles, allowing more oxygen between pages, creates a greater fire hazard than a pile that is neatly stacked. The risk of fire is greater in a workplace that is full of loose papers, both because they are more likely to be put somewhere dangerous accidentally and because they will burn much more quickly if a fire does start.

Arson

Even when you follow all the recommendations to avoid workplace fires, there may be someone else who wants to start the same thing that you want to stop. Arson is not a common cause of workplace conflagration, but it does happen. It can be the result of a disgruntled employee, a crooked owner looking for an insurance payout or a random pyromaniac. The best way to protect yourself against arson is to keep your building secured with locks, alarms and possibly night guards. Following the usual fire safety precautions regarding flammable materials will make arson less likely to succeed even when it is attempted.

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