Electrical fire safety is a big challenge for businesses. The statistics show that in the UK, electrical fires account for around a third of all accidental workplace fires. And given that there’s usually an increase in these types of fires over Christmas, it’s really important to ensure electrical fire safety is a priority. These types of fires are caused by electrical faults, faulty appliances or leads, or the misuse of electrical equipment. At the end of November, London Fire Brigade attended a fire at a pub which it’s believed was caused by an overloaded extension lead. Another pub, this time in Leicester, had its roof collapse following a fire caused by an electrical fault. Firefighters in Cheshire were called to a Spar store at the start of this month to tackle a blaze that had been caused by a tumble dryer. The impact of these fires can be profound. Clearly the main concern is ensuring the safety of building users, but even where everyone is evacuated, the longer term prospects for business affected by fire can be bleak and could even spell the end for some of them. Yet many of these types of fires are preventable. Tips for preventing electrical fires in your workplace Events like last month’s electrical fire safety week and bodies like Electrical Safety First campaign hard to try to make people more aware of the risks posed by electricity in every type of premises. These campaigns highlight the fact that there’s a great deal that can be done to prevent electrical fires.
  • Ensure all equipment your business uses is installed and maintained properly. To comply with the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989, all electrical equipment that could potentially cause injury must be maintained in a safe condition. Remember that this applies not only to equipment your business owns but also to equipment that’s hired in too.
  • Clearly the level of maintenance will be dictated by the type of appliance. But simply getting in the habit (and ensuring others at your premises get in the habit too) of constantly doing very basic checks can pay dividends. That might be spotting a darkened patch around a socket which suggests overheating. It might be noticing a frayed or loose wire. Make sure there’s a system in place where people can report faults that will then be addressed quickly. If there are concerns about the safety of electrical items, make sure they are clearly labelled as such so people know not to use them until they are repaired or replaced.
  • Portable Appliance (PAT) testing is a really effective way to make sure equipment is safe. It’s done by an electrically competent person who will examine and test appliances (including Christmas lights!) to make sure they’re safe to use and advise about next steps if they aren’t.
  • Talk to employees, and anyone else who regularly works in your premises or who’s been taken on for the Christmas period, about the risks posed by electrical fires. Explain why it’s vital they don’t overload sockets and extension leads. Remind them of the importance of switching appliances off and unplugging them, and chargers too, when they aren’t in use.
  • Other reminders to building users should include making sure all combustible materials are located well away from electrics, electrical appliances and, in fact, any potential heat sources. Never block fan vents on any type of electrical equipment as this can lead to overheating.
Remember to record all the activity you do so you can track when items have been tested and checked, any concerns that have been flagged up and what has been done to address them. This ensures everything is being checked with sufficient regularity and if any problems occur you’ll have clear documentation about the steps you’ve taken. Ultimately it’s both a legal and moral requirement to make sure you’re taking care of your employees and that includes providing them with premises where all the risks from fire are eliminated or reduced as far as possible. If you’re unsure about what your obligations are or feel you’d like some support in achieving them, please do contact us. We wish you a very happy and safe Christmas and New Year.