Posted January 12, 2021
The 8 Most Common Fire Hazards

Every hour over fifty calls are made to fire departments, approximately thirteen of them are calls made by businesses and industry. These types of fires cause an estimated $13 billion in property damage and approximately 3,000 fatalities per year.1 These fires are often caused by open and obvious hazards that can be brought to our insured's attention through our Loss Control program.

Clutter and Cleanliness

Many of our older insured locations have an attic, basement, or storage room where they store items that are no longer used. These items can readily accumulate and could create a fire hazard. In order to address this issue, we suggest stocking the materials needed to organize the space and allow time at the end of each shift for the staff to clean and tidy up the business.

Fire Equipment

Fire equipment is one of the key items that we look for during an inspection. When the equipment was last serviced and where it is located is documented during Loss Control's visit. We always confirm that the site has the correct types and number of extinguishers, as well as up-to-date servicing of the Fire Suppression and cleaning of the Hood and Duct systems. The presence of extinguishers is important; however, the extinguishers are not effective unless the staff is trained in their use. In order to properly protect the operation from fire, training, and servicing are key.

Blocked Fire Sprinkler Heads

Many of our customers have fire sprinklers installed on premises. In order to work properly, it is important that the sprinkler heads have at least 18" of clearance in case of fire. We recommend they remove items from high shelves and décor or holiday decorations that could impede the operation of the system.

Use of Safety Data Sheets

Many of our franchise businesses use OSHA's Safety Data Sheets (SDS) for the chemicals they use on premises. Section 7 of the Hazard Communication Standard's SDS provides guidance on safe handling and proper storage of chemicals. The SDS explains the dangers of mixing incompatible chemicals and indicates that they should be stored away from ignition sources, water, or oxidizers. Chemicals should not be stored inside furnace or electrical service areas for these reasons.

Electrical Issues

Electrical issues are almost always on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) top ten list of violations. Restaurants and bars rely heavily on electrical systems to power the various media, cooking, and bar equipment that are used daily. Gang plugs, overloaded outlets, and blocked electrical panels are often present when the electrical systems of these operations are older and may not have modern wiring, service panels, and/or access to outlets. Loss Control will make these issues known and discuss how they can be addressed. Extension cords and power strips can become a fire hazard when used for refrigeration equipment and motorized appliances. Cords should never be run inside of drop ceilings or over walls as they create a highway for fires, leading them into different parts of the building. Often when we see this occurring, it means that additional outlets should be installed, or the electrical service needs to be updated.

Improperly Rated Kitchen Appliances

In some of our smaller businesses, kitchen operations may be extended with the use of appliances that are not intended for commercial use. Improperly rated appliances such as slow cookers, electric griddles, and electric fry pans are often found during inspections. When these items are safety tested, they are tested under normal conditions for home use, not for more frequent use in a restaurant or tavern kitchen. Fire hazards come from premature wear, overheating, and short-circuiting of these appliances; consequently, their use should be limited.

Non-Working Fire Detection and Safety Equipment

During inspections we often locate smoke, carbon monoxide, and carbon dioxide detectors, as well as alarms and emergency lighting that may or may not be in good working order. Loss Control will discuss proper maintenance of this equipment with management to determine if they are checking it periodically and have found the equipment in good working condition. The presence of this equipment often gives a false sense of safety, even if it is not in good working order. Regular maintenance of this equipment can be key to reducing fire and safety hazards.

Blocked Emergency Exit Doors and Paths

Fire codes and OSHA regulations always require emergency exit paths to remain clear. Temporary concerns, such as deliveries or remodels, do not change this requirement. If these paths will be blocked temporarily, there should be alternate routes provided before the route is blocked, and all employees should be notified of the change.

If there are additional questions, please contact your agent. The Find an Agent search on our homepage will help you find an ICC agent in your area.

1 Occupational Health & Safety Magazine, April 2019