Health and Safety News

Occupational health and safety news and guidance

Preventing commercial fires caused by smoking

The infographic below by Fireward shows some of the most common causes of commercial fires. The graphic is based on fire statistics for Great Britain provided by the Department for Communities and Local Government. Some of the most common causes of commercial fires identified are electrical faults, misuse of equipment, smoking and arson (deliberate fires). With these causes identified, it is easier for businesses to take a proactive approach to fire safety and ensure that they are well equipped to reduce the risks of fire. We have chosen to take a closer look at one of the top causes - smoking - and provide advice on how businesses can reduce the risk of smoking-related fires.

Designated Smoking Areas

Smoking in areas close to flammable materials is dangerous and can easily result in a fire. Designated smoking areas should be allocated away from flammable materials to help reduce this risk. Regular checks of smoking areas can help to ensure that flammables haven’t been stored incorrectly by being in or close to a smoking area. Similarly, try to avoid having flammable or combustible materials (e.g. bags of rubbish) left lying around outside of work premises; a stray cigarette end could easily ignite such materials.

No-Smoking Signs

Using no smoking signs can be useful for reminding employees and visitors that smoking is not permitted in areas other than the designated smoking areas. This is particularly important for hazardous environments and areas with flammable materials.

Disposing of Cigarettes

If a cigarette is not put out properly, there’s a chance it could ignite other materials and a serious fire could grow. Similarly, if a cigarette is disposed of in an incorrect place it can result in a fire. Large ashtrays which are difficult to tip or spill are recommended for your designated smoking areas. It is also imperative that cigarette remains and ash is not emptied into a bin from an ashtray whilst still warm or not fully extinguished.

Staff Training

With thorough fire training for staff, the risk of smoking-related fires caused by employees can be drastically reduced. Training not only helps employees to identify risks which may not have been obvious otherwise, but can also highlight the true dangers of an incorrect approach to smoking in the workplace.

Information & Discipline

Your company’s approach to smoking and the rules and policies surrounding it should be transparent. This is partially achieved by the aforementioned staff training, designated smoking areas and no-smoking signs. Employees should also know who they can go to if they are unsure about rules regarding smoking, whether it is their team leader, manager, HR manager or health and safety officer. In addition to this, all information on smoking should be covered in your employee handbook. Employees choosing to break the rules in regards to smoking should be disciplined appropriately.


As the infographic shows, smoking and smokers’ materials are a major cause of commercial fires. Appropriate measures must be taken to reduce the risks of smoking to your business. By taking a pro-active approach to your fire safety, you can save lives, your assets and your business.

Infographic explaining common causes of fire in the workplace

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