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Common causes of workplace fires in the UK

Commercial fire statistics for the year 2020/2021

There were 11,916 fires in non-residential buildings in 2020/21. The following workplace fire statistics have been compiled to shed light on the significant fire risks faced by UK businesses. 

Key commercial fire facts

  • Faulty appliances and leads are the leading cause of workplace fires
  • A fifth of workplace fires are started deliberately
  • Industrial premesis are most at risk of workplace fires

Common causes of workplace fires

The most common causes of fires in the workplace are:

  1. Faulty electrical appliances and leads (1,707 fires)
  2. Faulty fuel supplies (1,321 fires)
  3. Placing articles too close to heat (940 fires)
  4. Misuse of equipment or appliances (925)
  5. Careless handling of fire or hot substances (877 fires)

Materials most commonly responsible for the development of non-dwelling fires

  1. Structures and fittings such as wiring insulation: 2,349
  2. Textiles, upholstery and furnishings: 1,908
  3. Rubbish, waste & recycling: 810
  4. Paper & cardboard: 664
  5. Food, such as cooking oil or fat: 613
  6. Agricultural and forestry products, such as trees, leaves, and crops: 397
  7. Explosive gases & chemicals: 349

Workplace arson

Just over a fifth (22%) of workplace fires are started on purpose by humans. Of the 11,916 non-residential fires attended in 2020/21, 2,677 were started deliberately. 

Workplaces most at risk of fire

The workplaces with the most fires in 2020/21 were as follows:

1. Industrial premisis

Fires in manufacturing facilities, mines and quarries, vehicle repair workshops, warehouses, storage facilities and other industrial premisis totalled 1,749.

  • Accidental fires: 1,592
  • Deliberate fires: 157
  • Fatalities caused by fire: 1
  • Injuries caused by fire: 97

2. Retail premisis

Fires in shops, supermarkets, department stores, shopping centres and other retail premisis totalled 1,075.

  • Accidental fires: 890
  • Deliberate fires: 185
  • Fatalities caused by fire: 2
  • Injuries caused by fire: 37

3. Food & drink premisis

Fires in commercial kitchens, restaurants, cafes, takeaway food outlets, and other food & drink premisis totalled 889. 

  • Accidental fires: 783
  • Deliberate fires: 106
  • Fatalities caused by fire: 0
  • Injuries caused by fire: 75

4. Healthcare premesis

Fires in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, specialised care centres and other healthcare premesis totalled 502. 

  • Accidental fires: 360
  • Deliberate fires: 142
  • Fatalities caused by fire: 0
  • Injuries caused by fire: 39

5. Hospitality premisis

Fires in hotels, hostels, animal boarding, B&Bs, caravan sites and other hospitality premisis totalled 436. 

  • Accidental fires: 346
  • Deliberate fires: 90
  • Fatalities caused by fire: 0
  • Injuries caused by fire: 52

Office fire statistics

There were a total of 334 office fires reported in 2020/21, which is a 43% decrease compared with the previous year (475 fires), and a 95% decrease compared with five years ago (648 fires). 

The significant drop in office fires can likely be attributed to fewer people working in offices and more people working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Preventing fires in the workplace

As an employer, landlord, property owner, occupier or building manager, you have responsibility for ensuring fire safety. As the responsible person you must undertake a number of steps that ensure your premisis, and the people residing within, are safe from fire.

If your business has been impacted by a fire, visit our commercial fire insurance claims page to find out how Morgan Clark could help with your insurance claim.

Sources: All data sourced from www.gov.uk

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