Fire-related Research Problem (Fire Science)

Abstract

The aim of this study is to identify the causes of various fire-related problems, consequences of fire hazards, preventive measures, and suggestions to avoid future problems. The human causes of fire include fault electrics, general negligence, human error, combustible materials, and arson. Companies can apply various preventive measures to avoid fire accidents. One of them is the installation of devices such as fire alarms to notify people about fire. Moreover, they can install devices such as CCTV and automated sprinkler system. Companies should make sure that combustible products are appropriately stored or disposed. Households should ensure that they sleep with doors closed and mount fire extinguishers at various strategic positions throughout the building.

 Introduction

In normal circumstances, no one could imagine the occurrence of a fire at a workplace or home set up. It is such a terrible incident that most people do not like talking about it. In the recent past, there have been a lot of fire accidents, mostly at the place of work. Most of the incidents involve human error and ignorance on the part of staff and fire department. Consequently, the loss due to fire can be devastating, and, thus, businesses must put appropriate procedures in place to reduce the risk of fire in order to protect employees as well as property. Even if some of the fire incidents occur due to human negligence, business owners need to have appropriate about their environment to ascertain whether it is prone to risks related to fire. While many people may think that the current demands on health and safety have gone too far, statistics on fire and fatalities show that people have done little to improve their safety. For instance, in the UK, there were about 150 deaths related to fire in 2013. The scenario proved that the workplace fire safety ought to remain paramount for any employer whether big or small. While most fire incidents occur due to natural forces such as earthquakes, faulty electrics, human error, and combustible materials, negligence and arson are the primary causes of fire. The consequences are mainly death, which is caused by smoke inhalation and destruction of property.

Purpose of the Research

The purpose of the research is to find out the causes of fire that occur in most places of work. There is a need to educate people on the incidents so that they can develop creative ideas concerning how to prevent the fatalities and what to do in case such an accident has occurred.

Literature Review

Many researchers have published a lot of reports concerning the incidences of fire at the workplace or home setups. Since only a few cases of fire have been reported at residential places, most scholars have shifted their research on workplace related fire incidents. Most of the incidents occur due to lack of sufficient knowledge regarding the appropriate prevention measures. In other instances, businesses have lost a lot of property due to poor response from the fire department. As far as the fire incidents are concerned, most researchers claim every stakeholder has an important role to play in preventing or fighting the fire in case it occurs (Uğurlu, 2016). For instance, business owners have to ensure that they have put all prevention measures in place such as installing automatic fire detectors. The employees have a duty to ensure that they check all electrical connections to ascertain that they are safe. On the contrary, the fire response departments have to make sure that they have the appropriate machinery to control fire and respond fast to distress calls from victims (Ouache, Ruparathna, Sadiq, & Hewage, 2018). Apart from the natural causes, which are rare, there are five main causes of fire at the workplace.

Faulty Electrics

Faulty electrics are the biggest cause of workplace fires. The fire mainly develops due to loose wires, overloaded plugs, and old equipment. It is associated with companies’ inability to conduct regular checks on electrical connections (Olawoyin, 2018). While electricity is a basic infrastructure to necessitate organizational activities, it can lead to devastating losses in case of a slight defect. Workplace fire due to electrical fault is fatal. It is not possible to stop such a fire since it spreads quickly to the whole building as a result of the wires that pass electric current throughout the building (Veland & Aven, 2015). Sometimes, it is not possible to retrieval property or even save lives due to electric fault. According to statistics by the United States Fire Administration (USFA), most U.S. companies that have experienced this type of tragedy were not able to retrieval property. Most cases that were reported in the country were due to ignorance on the part of administration to check some of the plugins that were poorly connected. The electricity company always distanced itself from the fire since they were caused by the organizations’ failure to report problems in electric connections (Veland & Aven, 2015). According to USFA, some fire erupts due to employees’ poor handling of the materials.

Flammable and Combustible Materials

Highly combustible materials also pose a significant danger to companies. They are a threat to the employees as well as the overall business. For instance, cooking gas companies face a major hazard since the materials can catch fire easily. Just like electricity faults, fire due to gas or other petroleum products is severe (Yu & Guan, 2016). Once it occurs, there is no time to save lives or property since it engulfs the whole areas in seconds. Premises that hold a number of materials that are flammable or combustible are on the top of the list of those companies that suffer from fire in the U.S. (Yu & Guan, 2016). However, due to the severity of fire incidents in those organizations, they have put extra measures to curb fire. For instance, many of them have banned workers from carrying cigarettes into the workplace. On the same note, they have also prohibited employees from possessing any instrument that could result in fire such as lighters.

Human Error

Human errors represent another set of causes for fires at the workplace. For instance, workers can knock liquid onto electrical equipment or spill flammable liquids. According to the fire statistics that USFA compiled, some staff lack self-discipline to take care of materials around them. Some of them tend to accomplish tasks hurriedly, which makes them not to notice the presence of combustible materials or naked live wires. In other instances, poor staff training contributes to some of these problems (Caldararo, 2015). Some employees are not enlightened on the way to handle flammable liquids. In this case, fire due to human can result in employees’ overall ignorance or the company’s failure to inform the workers about the handling techniques required for some materials. When fire incident occurs due to inability of the workforce to handle sensitive materials, the damage could be severe since they have insufficient expertise to deal with a fire incident. About 20 percent of companies in the U.S. do not train employees on how to handle disasters (Sheffi, 2015). The aspect increases the severity of fire incidents in most businesses.

General Negligence

Negligence differs from human error in that people fail to follow proper procedures, which could have helped them to prevent a fire incident. For instance, members of staff can undertake activities that are potentially known to be potential fire hazards. Manufacturing companies especially for the highly flammable materials normally notify the user on the handling procedures (Haynes, 2015). The government requires them to provide sufficient information concerning potential hazards that could result due to poor handling. They are meant to notify the consumer about the threats of the products so that he or she can handle the material with caution. However, despite all the information, some workers fail to comply by the guidelines due to poor understanding or lack of training from their employer. Employees can only avoid these accidents if they adhere to all instructions when handling various equipment. Companies need to be responsible enough to explain to the workers the importance of adhering to instructions when handling products.

Arson

Arson is another cause for fire related problems at the workplace. Although companies report few cases of arson, it can be severe when it occurs. It is a relatively frequent occurrence in the U.S. Arsonists target factories and industrial estates and vandalize them, thus, causing fire intentionally. Companies may not notice any signs for such an occurrence since the arsonist may portray him or herself as one of the members of staff and then communicate with other people outside the premises. While it is less common among organizations in the U.S., business record major losses since the act takes place abruptly (Silva-Santos et al., 2017). Fires can spread quickly from one unit to another especially if someone starts fire in areas that are highly flammable. If a company does not have appropriate fire control features, arsonists can vandalize the whole company within a few minutes.

Natural means (Earthquakes)

Many research materials that contain details about fire accidents lead to the conclusion that human causes are the most prevalent. However, there are a few cases which people consider natural, and they include earthquake, volcanic eruption, and lightning. Fire and explosion risk that is associated with an earthquake is a complex one rarely happens. However, regions that experience this kind of tragedy record enormous damages and loss of property beyond retrieval capabilities (Nimlyat, Audu, Ola-Adisa, & Gwatau, 2017). USFA notes that when compared with the normal fires, explosion hazard associated with earthquakes can cause a substantial heavy risk that covers a wide area. In most cases, earthquakes damage natural gas systems, and this is the major cause of fire. Again, earthquakes have direct impact on power systems. In this case, electric power is a major fire ignition source after an explosion. The dropped lines and power circuits damage houses and other structures on the surface (Nimlyat et al., 2017). Many cases of fire due to earthquakes are as a result of the power system.

 Consequences of Fire Hazards

Fire incidents normally lead to death and destruction of property. Research shows that most deaths are not caused by burns but due to chocking that results from smoke inhalation. When people are overwhelmed by smoke they find it difficult to save themselves or make it to an accessible exit. Due to the nature of construction materials in today’s homes and company buildings, fires grows inside a building and consumes the available oxygen (Vidyadharan, John, Thomas, & Yadav, 2018). Absence of oxygen makes the process of combustion to be incomplete, and this results to toxic gases, which are harmful to a person. Additionally, the burning of wood, household garbage, plastic or leaves produce smoke that contains toxic chemicals. These air pollutants cause eye and nose irritation, which makes breathing difficult (Vidyadharan et al., 2018). The risk is higher for people suffering from heart disease, asthma, and other respiratory complications.

Hypothesis

If people ignore the handling instructions contained in flammable materials, then cases of fire may increase.

Goals and Objectives of the Study

If I were to carry out the research, the ultimate goal would be to improve the overall fire hazard problem. However, I would outline some specific objectives to fulfil the goals, which include:

  • To examine the primary causes and consequences of fire hazards
  • To study the preparedness for fighting fire hazards in different companies

 Research Method

If I were to carry out the study about this topic, I would use case study as the research method. Case studies normally involve the detailed study of a particular case to come up with conclusive evidence about the reason for a certain deed or occurrence. Consequently, this technique typically includes observation and interviews and may involve consulting other people and personal or public records (Kaye, Kolinsky, & Urman, 2014). For this particular research, I would study a particular case involving a fire incidence in a corporation. I would consult people who may have witnessed the incident employees who were present during the fire incident. By doing so, I would gather information such as what was the cause of the fire, what did the organization do to minimize the fire, and what precautionary measures the company put in place to avoid such incidents in future. Moreover, I would gather information regarding whether it was the first time that the company had experienced a fire accident. Besides, I would enquire details about the approximate value of property damaged and if lives were lost in the process. As one of the requirement of the case study technique, I would observe the organization to see whether it has put in place fire prevention measures such as appropriate storage and disposal of flammable products, presence of fire proof shutters, automatic fire sprinkler system, and CCTV installation among others.

The case study of a specific organization that has experienced a fire accident will assist me to come up with possible conclusions about fire accidents in organizations. I will conclude that organizations in that specific area, which have experienced fire accidents, recorded an enormous damage to property worth billions of shillings. By analyzing the results of the interview and personal observation, I would find out the primary cause of the fire. In the conclusions section, for instance, I would state that ignorance on the part of employees caused the fire. The workers were not aware of the safety measures to apply when handling highly combustible materials. In this case, one of the workers handled some of the flammable liquids inappropriately, and this led to the eruption of fire. On the part of the organization, I would state that it had failed to offer training to the employees regarding the way to handle certain products. By interviewing people who were present in the company during the fire incident, I would ascertain whether the organization learned from the accident in order to apply more strict rules on fire prevention.

Prevention of Fire Hazards

In the organizational set up lightning, high winds, earthquakes, volcanoes, floods and human activities can trigger the development of fire. For all natural causes of fire, lightning is the most common contributor of fire hazards. Since people and organizations are aware of the basic characteristics of fire, they can protect themselves in various ways. The installation of smoke alarms is an example of a basic prevention measure. They help to identify a person that there is a fire outbreak so he or she can save him or herself and alert other people. The smoke alarms reduces the probability of death by about 70 percent (Yu & Guan, 2016). Another preventive measure is to review escape routes in an organization and practice escaping from each corner of the building. In case of a fire, one will not have a hard time locating the escape route. Moreover, carrying out a routine electrical check in the building by an electrician is an essential preventive measure. Since electrical faults contribute greatly to fire hazards, it is important for managers and other members of the staff to inspect extension cords for frayed or exposed wires and make sure that there is no overloaded circuits (Veland & Aven, 2015). Moreover, in a home set up, people can protect themselves by sleeping with the doors closed and install fire extinguishers throughout the entire building.

Conclusions and Recommendations

Bearing in mind the consequences of fire hazards, everybody in society should play a critical role in minimizing fire-related accidents. The first suggestion is that companies should conduct electric tests regularly to eliminate fires that result from faulty electrics. They should make sure that electrical goods are in good working conditions, and are fit for their intended purposes. Moreover, organizations should ensure appropriate storage, correct disposal, and in-depth processes for handling flammable substances (Yu & Guan, 2016). Apart from that, companies should train their members of staff on the various techniques of handling combustible materials to avoid human error related fire incidents. Another recommendation to minimize fire incidents in companies is to ensure that all the workers follow proper procedures when handling products. Organizations should install devices that assist in controlling fire such as fireproof shutters, water sprinkler system, and a CCTV system to protect the building from arsonists.

Fire-related accidents have been major concerns for many businesses across the globe. They have resulted to death of many people and destruction of property. Human related factors are the cause many fire hazards although natural calamities such as earthquakes and lightning cause some fires. The only way to protect oneself from the accidents is to apply various preventive measures. For instance, companies can check their electrical connections to eliminate any faults. Additionally, workers reduce fire hazards by adhering to storage and disposal guidelines for combustible products.

About the Author: Russell White