Fire Protection

The Control of Flammable Substances in the Workplace

May 8, 2015

Under British law, all businesses are required to complete workplace fire risk assessments on a regular basis. Based on the findings of the assessment, a fire safety plan can then be put in place to protect both the building and its occupants.

Of the many points covered under a fire risk assessment, one of the most important is identifying the various ways in which a fire may start.

Businesses which either create or store hazardous substances are obviously at a higher risk of being affected by fire. When thinking of substances which are highly susceptible to fire, the obvious ones which immediately spring to mind are the likes of petrol, paint thinners, welding gases and flammable chemicals.

However, there are many other less obvious items which can be equally as dangerous. These include various types of packing material, grease, engine oil and dust from wood, sugar and flour.

Identifying Flammable Substances and Reducing Risk

As part of the fire safety risk assessment each business is obliged to carry out, any substance which has the potential to cause a fire to break out needs to be identified.

Once each risk has been noted, measures need to be put in place to ensure that the potential for harm is either reduced or eradicated altogether.

If a risk cannot be removed entirely (for instance, if a company’s business revolves around the creation of hazardous substances), then detailed precautions need to be taken to lessen the potential for danger.

Such precautions could include the addition of safety equipment such as fire curtains to contain any fire outbreaks in a reduced space. Of course, the maintenance of safety equipment such as fire curtains and extinguishers should form part of the overall risk assessment.

Poor housekeeping can often contribute to the outbreak of fire within a commercial operation. The build-up of rubbish, in addition to dust and grease, represents a major fire risk. Even if the blaze breaks out elsewhere, such a build-up of waste can contribute to it spreading more rapidly.

Substances which are flammable, such as dust and vapour, should also be kept completely apart from any sources of ignition – for example, sparks or naked flames. In instances where the flammability of a particular substance is unclear, the safety data sheets provided by the supplier of the substance are an excellent source of information.

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