Electrical equipment can be a significant cause of accidental fires in shops and offices. The main causes are;
Overheating cables and equipment, e.g. due to overloading circuits, bunched or coiled cables or impaired cooling fans.
Incorrect installation or use of equipment.
Little or no maintenance and testing of equipment.
Incorrect fuse ratings.
Damaged or inadequate insulation on cables or wiring.
Combustible materials being placed too close to electrical equipment which may give off heat when operating normally or may become hot due to a fault.
Arcing or sparking by electrical equipment.
Embrittlement and cracking of cable sheathing in cold environments.
All electrical equipment should be installed and maintained in a safe manner by a competent person. If portable electrical equipment is used, including items brought into a workplace by staff, then your fire risk assessment should ensure that it is visually inspected and undergoes portable appliance testing (PAT) at intervals suitable for the type of equipment and its frequency of use.
Issues to consider include;
Overloading of equipment.
Correct fuse ratings.
PAT testing and testing of fixed installations
Protection against overloading of installation.
Protection against short circuit
Insulation, earthing and electrical isolation requirements
Frequency of electrical inspection and test
Temperature rating and mechanical strength of flexible cables.
Portable electrical equipment.
Physical environment in which the equipment is used (e.g. wet or dusty atmospheres)
Suitable use and maintenance of personal protective equipment.
All electrical installations should be regularly inspected by a competent electrical engineer appointed by you, or on your behalf.
Carelessly discarded cigarettes and other smoking materials are a major cause of fire. A cigarette can smoulder for several hours, especially when surrounded by combustible material. Many fires are started several hours after the smoking materials have been emptied into waste bags and left for future disposal.
Consider prohibiting smoking in your premises other than in designated smoking areas. Display suitable signs throughout the premises informing people of the no smoking policy and the locations where smoking is permitted.
In those areas where smoking is permitted, provide non-combustible deep and substantial ashtrays to help prevent unsuitable containers being used. Empty all ashtrays daily into metal waste bins and take them outside. It is dangerous to empty ashtrays into plastic waste sacks which are then left inside for disposal later.