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Describe practices that prevent fires from starting and spreading

This page is designed to answer the following questions:

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Fire can cause damage, injury and death and most fires are preventable. Therefore, it is important that all employees understand about fire prevention and how fires can spread.

For a fire to start, three things are needed:

  • Oxygen
  • Fuel e.g. combustible materials like paper, wood etc.
  • Heat

This is represented by the Fire Triangle below.

Fire triangle. Each side of the triangle is labelled as: heat, fuel, oxygen and there is a flame in the middle

When these three things combine, a chemical reaction takes place which creates fire.

Removing any one of the three ‘sides’ of the fire triangle will prevent a fire from starting or spreading.

Practical advice for fire prevention include:

  • storing flammable materials correctly (e.g. keeping flammable substances and ignition sources apart)
  • keeping the workplace clean and tidy – rubbish left lying around is a source of fuel for a fire
  • flammable materials should be kept to a minimum (e.g. use non-flammable alternatives, do not overstock flammable materials)
  • assessing fire risks and putting in control measures to reduce or eliminate the risk
  • electrical equipment to be tested regularly and unplugged when not in use
  • faulty equipment to be reported immediately and not used until it has been repaired or replaced
  • avoid using naked flames unless absolutely necessary
  • avoid smoking in the workplace, or only in designated areas
  • follow employer’s agreed ways of working
  • ensure waste is collected regularly so that it does not build-up
  • do not leave cooking food unattended
  • some individuals may also require supervision when cooking
  • avoid using portable heaters where possible

Practical advice for preventing fires from spreading include:

  • using fire safety equipment such as fire extinguishers or fire blankets
  • regularly checking smoke alarms
  • closing doors and windows
  • having a clean and tidy workplace
  • call emergency services as soon as possible
  • the employer providing information, training, fire safety equipment and agreed ways of working as well as performing risk assessments
  • employees following agreed ways of working
  • regular fire drills
  • clear fire exit signs and clear evacuation routes

For those studying at Level 3, you will need to demonstrate to your assessor that you are able to implement measures that could prevent a fire. You may do this by asking a colleague to tidy up any clutter that has built up along an escape route, performing a fire risk assessment yourself, leading a fire drill or ensuring doors are closed behind you. These are things that you will not be instructed to do but your assessor will hopefully observe during their visits to your workplace.

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