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Fire Hazards in the Workplace: Definition, Prevention and More

A fire accident happened last month at the Income Tax building in central Delhi, tragically killing a 46-year-old IT officer. The fire occurred during lunchtime when most of the employees were outside the building, otherwise, the casualties could have been more.

Authorities announced that this tragic disaster was caused by an electrical fault, a common fire hazard that can happen in a building. The electrical issue triggered a short circuit that unexpectedly burned nearby chemicals, leading to intense fumes that suffocated the victim.

Had proper fire safety protocols been in place, there would have been a chance this tragedy could have been avoided. Staff members should be better equipped with awareness of how to mitigate risks and keep each other safe in such events.

With such awareness, they can even perform immediate life-saving measures when needed. This begins by giving them first aid training, which prepares them to perform efficient mitigation or assistance in the critical aftermath of such a fire accident.

In this article, we will go through what counts as fire hazards that contribute to fire accidents, including ways to mitigate them effectively.

What are Fire Hazards?

Fire is the most dangerous thing that can lead to devastation or fatality in a workplace. However, spontaneous combustion is less likely to happen in any building. Often, it is caused by the presence of fire hazards.

Fire hazards refer to anything that involves an open flame, increases the likelihood of combustion or increases the severity should fires already occur. 

What counts as fire hazards can vary greatly depending on the environment. For instance, what poses the risk of fire in an office building filled with paper materials will be different from a power plant site with high-voltage electrical equipment and combustible chemicals.

Types of Fire

Fire is classified into 5 categories and each poses a different level of risk to fire combustion. These include:

Class A Fire

Class A fire involves ordinary combustible materials such as paper, wood and cloth. They are effectively quenched by water or insulation with other chemical agents.

Class B Fire

Class B fire is caused by flammable liquids like gasoline, oil and paint. Extinguishing this type of fire involves using dry chemicals or carbon dioxide.

Class C Fire

Class C fire involves electrical equipment such as wiring, generators or appliances. Non-conducting extinguishers like dry chemicals and carbon dioxide are used to quench this type of fire.

Class D Fire

Class D fire is caused by combustible metals like aluminium, magnesium and lithium. Salt-based chemical extinguishers are used to put out this fire type.

Class K Fire

Class K fire involves anything used as cooking equipment such as cooking oils, animal fats and vegetable oils. Wet chemical extinguisher agents are used to squelch this type of fire.

Top 7 Fire Hazards In The Workplace

The presence of fire hazards poses risks of dangerous, worse devastating fire accidents in the workplace that can lead to fatality. These are the top 7 fire hazards you need to be aware of:

  1. Electrical Equipment

Electrical equipment, involving wires, extension cords or appliances powered by electricity poses a risk to class C fires. When any of it runs into fault, either caused by poor application or water exposure, a short circuit might happen.

The short circuit typically leads to overheated wires and, worse, sparks. While most sparks are usually harmless, they can ignite nearby combustible materials or liquids, further creating intensified fires. 

Without proper management and recognising the chaos this situation can be, the intensified fires put the risk of substantial smoke. Substantial smoke is as dangerous as intense fires, as fatalities may also occur due to asphyxiation.

  1. Flammable Materials

Flammable materials like paper, wood and cloth are considered fire hazards, even though they don’t directly start fires. However, they often escalate the intensity of fires. What was once tiny sparks can turn into a blaze when these materials are involved.

These flammable materials, being everyday items in most workplaces, require proper storage and handling to minimise fire risks. It is recommended to place them in safe and accessible places, away from other items that can potentially ignite fires.

Aside from placing flammable materials in proper storage spaces, decluttering may also be necessary to reduce the number of combustible materials.

  1. Flammable Liquids

Work activities that involve flammable liquids such as gasoline, cooking oil or diesel fuel require extra caution. Such liquids are considered fire hazards, easily causing blazes even with just a brief contact with minor sparks.

Moreover, fires triggered by flammable liquids are classified as class K fires. This type of fire is the strongest and most dangerous, as it spreads so rapidly. The damage caused is often massive and not uncommon to lead to fatalities.

Considering the dangers that can be caused, flammable liquids should be seriously managed. This includes avoiding contact with ignition sources like an open fire, implementing proper ventilation and disposing of flammable liquid waste appropriately.

  1. HVAC Units

HVAC units inside a building, which are responsible for controlling room temperature, can be a fire hazard. This is usually caused by dust, dirt and debris accumulation. 

These particles will block out the unit’s airflow over time if it is not cleaned regularly. In this case, the build-up of particles can cause the unit’s components, such as the motor or wiring to overheat. 

This overheating can lead to the insulation on wires breaking down, potentially sparking a fire. Older HVAC systems with outdated parts or lack proper maintenance are at higher risk.

  1. Kitchen Areas

Kitchen areas, involving open flames and the use of flammable liquids such as cooking oils and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), are high-risk zones for fire hazards. Fires mostly occur within these spaces due to cooking oils contacting open flames or from LPG leaks.

Moreover, human behaviour in kitchen areas can also contribute to fire accidents. This is particularly true when cooking is left unattended, as forgotten cooking can quickly turn into a dangerous fire. 

That’s why it is necessary to enforce safe practices while accessing kitchen areas. These include regularly checking for gas leaks, keeping flammable materials away from heat sources and ensuring the placement of fire extinguishers at strategic points in kitchen areas.

  1. Exit Route Obstruction

Obstructed exit routes count as a fire hazard at critical times when a fire accident has occurred. This can happen due to the lack of adequate escape planning for everyone inside a building to safely evacuate from the premises.

An effective escape plan must include an adequate number of exit routes. Ideally, a workplace should have at least two exit routes to facilitate prompt evacuations of staff or anyone inside the building.

In addition, evacuation paths including hallways, stairwells and exit doors must be free from obstacles such as furniture or storage items. Emergency lighting and clear exit signs will also help to guide occupants in low-visibility conditions.

  1. Human Error

Human error or unintentional mistakes involving fire hazards can trigger fire accidents. This can include electrical wiring faulty or overuse of power sockets, which unknowingly cause fire to ignite.

Other behaviours also count as human error that can cause fire accidents. These include neglecting to clean HVAC units from dust or debris, leaving the stove unattended while cooking or placing obstacles like furniture in emergency exit routes.

Additionally, human errors come from both employees and those responsible for carrying out regular maintenance. This is why it is necessary to train employees thoroughly while holding responsible persons accountable for ensuring regular maintenance of workplace equipment.

Fire Safety In The Workplace: Preventing and Mitigating Fire Hazards

Items or behaviours that are considered fire hazards do not always have to cause fire ignition. Even when a fire occurs, it should be handled effectively with proper prevention and mitigation, avoiding massive damage to take a toll on the building and people’s lives.

Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) governs the nation’s fire safety regulations. These regulations are outlined in the Fire Code, officially titled the “Code of Practice for Fire Precautions in Buildings” which is regularly updated to reflect new safety needs.

Several key fire safety measures in the Fire Code should be adhered to, including:

  1. Adequate Fire Protection and Evacuation Strategies

Evacuation from workplaces in high-rise buildings is often challenging. In the past, victims were injured or even died as a result of accidents because they did not have time to evacuate when the fire had spread.

Therefore, it is necessary to have adequate fire protection and evacuation strategies implemented in the workplace. This includes having adequate fire extinguishers to reduce the flames and at least two emergency exits.

Should a fire accident have occurred, the intensity can be reduced temporarily. Apart from that, people can safely evacuate from the building while waiting for help to arrive from the fire department.

  1. Fire Alarm and Detection System

Large fumes are not the sole cause of fire accidents. Tiny sparks, which people may not realise, may also ignite a fire. They are often the most common sources of fire.

That’s why the SCDF instructed the application of a fire alarm and detection system. The system, which works by notifying the presence of fire, allows occupants to promptly react towards safety.

In notifying the presence of fire, the system entails smoke, heat, gas and fume detectors. Here’s how each detector works:

  • Smoke detectors: They work by sensing particles in the air that result from combustion.
  • Heat detectors: They identify changes in temperature through fixed temperature thresholds or rate-of-rise mechanisms to signal the presence of a fire.
  • Gas detectors: They monitor the presence of combustible gases that could indicate a fire hazard.
  • Fume detectors: They sense the presence of flames with ultraviolet (UV) or infrared (IR) spectra.
  1. Use of Fire-Resistant Materials in Construction

The disaster caused by a fire can become significantly uncontrollable if the construction materials involve flammable materials. Should a fire occur, it is at risk of rapidly spreading throughout the entire building. 

This is why the Fire Code instructs the use of fire-resistant materials in high-rise building constructions. 

There is a wide range of non-combustible materials, including stones, brick and steel for the integral parts of the building. While fire-rated gypsum board, mineral wool and intumescent coatings can be used for the interior.

Conversely, the use of timber, plywood or other combustible materials must be avoided to minimise the potential for uncontrollable fires, thereby safeguarding both the building and the occupants’ lives.

  1. Clear Signage and Unobstructed Pathways

In a fire accident, visibility is severely hindered by smoke. The situation can be even more tense as occupants scramble to evacuate. Thus, finding emergency exits can be a challenging task in such conditions. 

As occupants scramble to emergency exits, the presence of obstacles such as furniture in the pathways will add to the panic. They also further delay escape efforts, where every second counts in potentially life-saving actions

Therefore, the Fire Code mandates high-rise buildings to have clear signage and unobstructed pathways. These are the essential requirements that must be rigorously maintained to ensure readiness for any unforeseen fire incident. 

  1. Integration of Smart Fire Safety Technologies

Advancements in fire safety technology have revolutionised the way accidental fires are managed. These advancements ultimately enhance the effectiveness of fire suppression beyond traditional methods like fire extinguishers.

One notable innovation that the Fire Code encourages to implement is smart sprinkler systems. These systems are equipped with IoT sensors, designed to detect the presence of fire and automatically splash water to quench the sparks.

They are particularly useful to integrate into workplaces, as many sparks are usually gone unnoticed. By having these systems integrated, sparks can be effectively suppressed before they escalate into destructive flames, thereby promptly mitigating potential fire hazards.

Final Thoughts

Fire hazards in the workplace should never be overlooked. Even if they are a part of everyday items, the potential for them to cause or intensify fire accidents can be significant.

This is why it is necessary to adhere to the Fire Act, enforced by the Singapore Civil Defense Force (SCDF). Furthermore, availing of safety programmes that offer essential life-saving measures is also crucial for enhancing response capabilities.

Medlink is here to provide workplaces across Singapore with:

For further information, please contact us. Receive more detailed information regarding proactive measures during an emergency such as a fire accident.

FAQs

What are examples of potential fire hazards in the workplace?

What counts as fire hazards include any items or behaviours that can cause or intensify fire ignition, including:

  • Electrical equipment
  • Combustible materials
  • Flammable liquids
  • HVAC units
  • Kitchen areas
  • Exit route obstructions
  • Human error

How do you control fire hazards?

Controlling fire hazards so that they will not turn into actual fires requires thorough planning, regular maintenance and strict adherence to fire safety protocols.

How do you identify fire hazards?

Identifying fire hazards involves:

  • Fire risk assessment
  • Electrical equipment inspection
  • Flammable material storage evaluation
  • Escape routes assessment
  • Fire detection maintenance
  • HVAC units inspection
  • And other measures related to potential fire hazards

What are fire safety signs?

Fire safety signs are meant to warn people about potential fire hazards. They are placed strategically throughout facilities to ensure visibility and provide clear guidance in case of a fire emergency.

About Medlink Healthcare Group

Committed to providing a comprehensive healthcare ecosystem, Medlink Healthcare Group delivers top-notch ambulance services, first-aid courses and industrial paramedics. We aim to empower individuals, businesses and communities to effectively respond in times of medical emergencies, right when it matters the most.

Our first aid courses cover a wide range of topics, including a CPR + AED course, BCLS course, occupational first aid course, and a standard first aid course in Singapore—both accredited by SRFAC. Whether you’re an individual looking to acquire life-saving skills or a business investing in workplace safety and health training, we have the right course for you.

Alongside training programs, our private ambulance services are led by highly trained paramedics and equipped with cutting-edge medical technology. Every second counts; we are always ready to provide prompt and expert care when you need it most. 

Our industrial paramedics solutions can also meet the unique needs of your workplace, from on-call doctors to screening exercises and specialised clinics. We ensure that you have access to the right medical services to keep employees safe and sound, no matter where they are. 

Your journey to safety starts with us. Contact us today and prepare to respond in any emergency.

DISCLAIMER:
This blog post is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for a comprehensive first-aid course provided by certified professionals. Readers are strongly encouraged to acquire a first aid education to receive the appropriate training and certification.

We do not assume responsibility for any actions taken based on the information provided in this article. Always consult with certified first aid professionals and seek hands-on training to ensure you are well-prepared to handle emergency situations competently.

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