Knowing how to prevent fires and what to do in the event that a fire does break out is one of the most important components of workplace safety. In order to have a truly safe workplace, it is absolutely crucial that you understand what factors and circumstances can lead to fires, and then take active steps to ensure that you eliminate the risk of fires as much as possible. Here are five common causes of fire in the workplace with which all employees should familiarise themselves (list provided by FireandSafetyAustralia). Once you understand well the common causes of fires, you will be better able to identify steps that can be taken in order to prevent them. 

Faulty electrics 

Faulty electrics such as wiring, adaptors and power boards are very often responsible for disastrous fires. This is a particular risk in old buildings that have been poorly maintained. Ensure that you have a qualified electrician assess your electrics, and at the first sign of any faults such as frayed wiring have a professional rectify the problem immediately. Adaptors, power boards and plug points should never be overloaded, and when in doubt you should not hesitate to seek the advice of a qualified electrician. Ensure that safety switches and the appropriate fuses are installed by a professional. Because of the potential for danger, any electrical problems must be addressed immediately. 

Flammable materials 

Extra caution must be exercised when there are flammable materials on or near the premises. When handling or storing flammable materials, it is of the utmost importance that all the necessary safety precautions are observed, and that the prescribed procedures for storing such substances are strictly followed. For instance, when storing liquids that are flammable and combustible, appropriate storage containers must be used and only the allowable quantities and sizes should be permitted. When disposing of flammable materials, care must also be taken to follow all safety guidelines. 

Human error 

Your employees are not robots, and human error is inevitable no matter what kind of work your employees are doing. You should always pre-empt any accidents and put in place safeguards and emergency procedures to be followed should something go wrong. For instance, all staff should be educated as to the proper procedure to follow should an employee spill a flammable liquid or accidentally damage wiring. 


While some degree of human error is to be expected in any enterprise, many people fail to consider that gross negligence is also a possibility. Albeit a more distant possibility it is one that can yield disastrous results. You should do all you can to lower the likelihood of negligent behaviour. For instance, employees should be constantly reminded that flammable or waste material should never be kept near heat sources not only verbally but also through the use of prominent signage


Sadly, fires are sometimes caused by deliberate antisocial behaviour. Arson or vandalism can be carried out not only by strangers but also people known to you such as disgruntled former employees. While it can be difficult to pre-empt such behaviour, it is important to be vigilant, especially when your workplace is particularly vulnerable, for instance because flammable materials are stored on the premises. If your workplace is identified as a dangerous or vulnerable location, it is necessary to maintain tight security at all times. It might be necessary to employ security personnel to be on the premises twenty four-seven, and to ensure that the identity of all persons entering the premises is verified. 

While fires are usually impossible to pre-empt, if you make a conscious effort to ensure that all precautions are taken, you will be able to effectively reduce the risk of fire at your workplace. As it is impossible for laymen to accurately pinpoint the fire safety needs of your particular workplace, it is recommended to seek advice of experts or consult government guidelines. You should never compromise safety for convenience, not least because the lives of your employees depend on your efforts to maintain a safe workplace.

Our thanks to Toni-Louise Forsyth, for sharing these fire safety procedures. pb