Assess electrical fire hazards to recude risk- Wormald

By: Wormald  30-Aug-2012
Keywords: Fire Protection Equipment, Compliance, Fire & Safety

Electrical fire hazards exist in almost every workplace and unfortunately, fires resulting from electrical hazards can lead to injury, fatality and damage to property. Common causes of electrical fires are overloaded equipment, electrical short circuiting of worn or damaged cables or heat generated by electrical equipment.

To minimise the risk of an electrical fire occurring, fire protection specialist Wormald advises business owners and managers to identify and assess the electrical fire hazards in their workplaces and understand the level of risk associated with these hazards. This will help identify what action needs to be taken and what is the most appropriate fire protection equipment or systems to install.

Wormald also advises that businesses implement correct maintenance and servicing procedures, both for the electrical equipment and fire protection equipment and systems, and that fire safety training is provided to all staff.

Electrical fire hazards in the workplace
It is important to identify all electrical fire hazards in the workplace and understand the possible harm that these hazards may cause.

Garry Kwok, National Technical Manager with Wormald said, “Hazard assessments should be carried out as part of regular workplace inspections whether it is by the business owner or manager, or by an assigned employee. The responsible person should be provided with appropriate training on how to identify and assess electrical fire hazards. They should also be advised to record any safety infringements or incidents.”

“There are several types of electrical hazards which can be found in the workplace. Almost all electrical equipment is potentially hazardous and can cause serious injury or damage if improperly used or maintained. Electrical fires can be attributed to malfunctions in electrical equipment due to overworking, inappropriate use, inadequate ventilation or overheating, ageing or lack of maintenance or neglect.”

The following outlines some of the common electrical fire hazards found in workplaces:
 
- Overloading electrical circuits and extension cords can result in a fire and should be avoided. Extension cords are often required in the workplace due to the number devices and machines operating at the one time. This is something that should be carefully considered when designing a new workspace to ensure an adequate number of outlets are installed.
- Many workplaces will have a number of electrical appliances on site. The use of unsafe, poorly maintained and poor quality electrical appliances should be avoided as they can develop electrical shorts which can create fire. Careful attention should be given to equipment and cords and regular maintenance and servicing should be carried out by a qualified individual. Appliances should be turned off at the end of the day. 
-  Electrically-operated office equipment such as computers, printers, scanners and shredders should also be checked regularly to ensure their power cords are not defective, frayed or improperly installed.
- Working with "live equipment" can be a fire hazard. Electrical machines should be disconnected before cleaning, adjusting or applying flammable solutions.
- Combustible material such as cardboard boxes and paper should not be allowed to build up in inappropriate storage locations near sources of ignition. 
-  The use of portable fan heaters, which are often placed under desks or in enclosed spaces, should be avoided. The heat from these units can catch paper on fire or melt the insulation around electrical appliances.

What is required?
Australian/New Zealand Standard AS/NZ 3760: In-service safety inspection and testing of electrical equipment recommends in-service inspection and testing to ensure the safety of those using electrical equipment in the workplace.

When planning for fire protection in a workplace, Kwok highlights the importance of having in place the most suitable fire protection equipment or systems to deal with the potential fire risks.

“Carrying out a comprehensive assessment of the workplace and identifying the hazards will help determine the correct fire protection equipment required. For example a water fire extinguisher should never be used on an electrical switchboard or any electrically powered equipment or machine. Electrical fires are best treated with powder or carbon dioxide extinguishers. When dealing with a facility housing high-tech equipment, the fire extinguishing agent has to be carefully selected so that it does not result in further damage to that equipment. A fire protection specialist can advise on the best type of fire protection systems to install.”
 
Wormald offers the Inergen® system which is particularly suitable for facilities housing sensitive electronic instruments or high-value electrical equipment such as data centres. It is an inert gas fire suppressant consisting entirely of natural gases so is designed to suppress fire while allowing people to breathe easily within the area and escape the fire.

Training
In addition to having the correct fire protection equipment in place staff members, particularly those assigned to a company’s fire safety team, should be fully briefed and trained what to do in the event of a fire. According to Kwok, fire wardens have a considerable amount of responsibility for the wellbeing of a building’s occupants but without training, are often unaware of the full extent of their duties.

“It is important that staff members are aware of the various classes of fire and the appropriate fire equipment to be used for each. Fire safety training can help achieve this and should be provided to all staff at regular intervals. Fire wardens should be fully trained on their responsibilities, operation of fire equipment and emergency warning and communication systems in their premises and evacuation procedures.”

For more information call 133 166 or visit www.wormald.com.au

Keywords: Compliance, Fire & Safety, Fire Protection Equipment, Fire Training

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