In a recent fire at Crathorne Hall Hotel near Yarm on Teeside a substantial part of the building was damaged by a fire caused, believes the fire service, by burning flies, killed by an electric insect-zapper, falling onto flammable material stored in the loft.
This reminded me of a story a friend of mine told me about his trip to the southern hemisphere when he watched a large shiny beetle, making its way purposefully down the wall in the hotel corridor until it arrived at the light fitting. He was watching it closely as he had never seen anything quite so large in the bug line before.
My friend was surprised when the bug disappeared into the light fitting, which then emitted a crackling noise, a tiny flame and a puff of smoke just before the light went out. The bug had, for the briefest of moments before it expired, become part of the Australian national grid.
The smoke didn’t disappear at once, so he thought it best to tell someone. He hadn’t expected the flurry of activity when he reported his ‘wildlife experience’ to reception. There was what seemed to be to be a great deal of dashing about, and numerous telephone calls. Was it overkill? I don’t know; they probably had experience of the mixture of native bugs and Australian electricity; he hadn’t. It’s not the kind of thing you would expect to happen in England, until I read the article about the fire at Crathorne Hall Hotel!
Fire hazards in the home and workplace
It’s not very likely that you have an electric insect-zapper in the loft, but it’s a cautionary tale about the potential for fire anywhere at all.
There are a great many flammable materials in our homes and workplaces, which need treating with the greatest of respect.
• Cleaning materials
• Furnishings, oils
• Greases and similar materials
All essential materials for the home and workplace which if not dealt with appropriately represent fire hazards.
How to guard against fire hazards
Through collaboration between the Scottish Government’s Police and Community Safety Directorate, HM Fire Service Directorate for Scotland, the Scottish Building Standards Agency and the Health and Safety Executive a guidance document titled “Practical Fire Safety Guidance for Factories and Storage Premises” goes into the methods in some detail.
Having explained what the law requires north of the border, the document goes on to offer advice as good north or south of it. It starts with benchmarking your premises, achieved through a fire risk assessment covering five steps:
1. Identify the people at risk
2. Identify fire hazards
3. Evaluate the risk, and decide if existing measures are adequate
4. Record the assessment information
There’s a whole chapter devoted to reducing the likelihood of fire, restricting its spread, putting it out and making sure that people can escape if a fire should start.
You’ve obviously done a fire inspection of your premises. So ask the questions:
“What’s changed since then?”
“Has anyone on your staff done anything that creates a fire hazard, like install an electric fly-zapper in an out of the way place?”
Now might be a good time to check, because if anything’s changed, then your fire risk assessment might not be as effective as you thought…