Stage 1: Identify Hazards

sparksThe first part of your fire risk assessment is about identifying any potential fire hazards in your place of work. In order to help you identify hazards, it is useful to have an understanding of what can cause a fire to start. This will enable you to more easily spot the things that play a part in starting fires.

There are three things needed for a fire to start:

A source of ignition
Fuel
Oxygen

By understanding the importance of these three things, you can begin to look at your work environment with a view to spotting things that could be an ignition source or provide fuel for a fire. Understanding how oxygen might move around your premises will also play a part. Let us look at each of these components in more detail to give you some examples of the sort of thing to watch out for.

Sources of Ignition

No fire can start without a source of ignition, so think about all the possible things on your premises that have the potential to act in this way. Clearly anything that involves a naked flame or spark presents the most obvious danger. If your business involves hot works of any sort then this will be high up your list.

Here are some examples of ignition sources:

Anything with a naked flame, including gas cookers, candles, cigarettes or welding equipment.

Anything that gets hot, such as electric cookers, any type of heater, including in particular portable heaters. The most dangerous ones being the powerful gas fired type.

Fuse cupboards or electrical intake rooms. These should be clear of any other items and never used for storage.

Lights that get hot. LEDs and fluorescents are less of a problem, but some bulb types such as halogen can get very hot. If any combustible material ever comes near to such bulbs you have a fire risk.

Any portable electrical appliances present a risk and are a common source of fires. This is why they need regular inspections and testing as problems occur when they get damaged or develop faults.

Any cooling systems or ventilation can present a hazard if they are obstructed by objects or congested with dust. If they are unable to function properly this can lead to overheating.

Fuel

A fire will not start if there is nothing for it to burn. If there is a lot of ready material for it to use as fuel it can spread very quickly. You need to be aware of anything on your premises that can act as a fuel for fire.

Here are some examples of what to look for:

Paper, including stationary, envelopes, files, leaflets, brochures, etc. Also remember any storage areas for archived material that you may not use on a daily basis.

Packaging materials such as cardboard boxes, promotional displays, posters, pallets, bubble-wrap, etc.

Materials such as soft furnishing, like curtains and other textiles.

Synthetic materials such as plastic shelving, POS displays, foam within furniture, etc.

Flammable liquids such as cooking oils, paints, thinners, fuels, paraffin, white spirit, etc.

Pressurised containers of flammable gases, including aerosols and refrigerants.

Oxygen

A fire cannot burn without oxygen and the usual source for this is just in the air around the fire. The way air can move around your premises has a massive impact on whether a fire spreads rapidly throughout the building or is contained in one area.

The things that have an impact on oxygen supply are doors, windows, ventilation and air conditioning systems. Any fire doors in your premises are there precisely to block the supply or air and prevent the spread of fire. If you allow these to be propped open they serve no function at all.

When you have inspected your premises with an awareness of these three components you should have a list of potential fire hazards, which is the first part of your Fire Risk Assessment.

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