A guide to eliminating fire hazards while working from home

How to eliminate fire hazards while working from home

It appears that flexible work is here to stay, with many Australians now required to work from home or split their time between there and the office.

With the increased use of computers and appliances it is important that people are mindful of fire safety hazards, as it only takes a few minutes for a home to be engulfed by fire. Knowing what to do if a fire occurs can be lifesaving.

While some employers have tried to educate employees by providing WHS lists to cross-check their home environments, these documents often only cover broad health and safety recommendations with less emphasis on how to manage fire safety hazards or create an emergency evacuation plan.

Surprisingly, many people do not know how to respond to a fire, which can easily trigger an instant state of panic. Therefore, it's important to plan for an unexpected incident and understand the correct procedure to follow should a fire occur.

According to John Lynch from Wormald Australia, the amount of time spent working from home is likely to double for some and there are many hazards to look out for.

  • Ensure your mini heater is clean, in proper working order and plugged directly into a wall-socket. Just like social distancing, heaters should be at least 1.5 metres away from flammable objects or materials such as curtains.
  • Check and replace all damaged and fraying cords on electrical equipment and that the equipment is kept away from pets.
  • Overloading power outlets with double adaptors can cause overheating; instead use a power board with a built-in surge protector to safeguard against an electrical fire.
  • Place power boards on their side to prevent dust or other loose particles from falling into the connection, it might surprise you, but it can trigger fires.
  • Resist the convenience of leaving devices on charge and instead unplug them as soon as they are fully charged. If left for long periods of time, devices and outlets may emit heat which can cause a device to smoulder, sparking a fire.
  • If you've been making your own meals while working at home, don't forget many house fires start in the kitchen. It only takes a quick distraction, such as leaving a stovetop or other cooking appliance unattended, to start a fire. So if you are cooking during the working day, remember to switch off the appliance before leaving the room.

According to Lynch, the cooler months of the year can also increase the risk of certain hazards that can lead to house fires. Electrical appliances including electric blankets and heaters are used more frequently, with many Australian households commonly operating multiple portable heaters in various parts of the house at the same time. Used incorrectly or without care, this can increase the risk of house fires.

Clothes dryers are typically relied on more frequently during winter, but they are notorious for causing house fires; make sure the lint filter is cleaned after every use.

For those with the luxury of an open fireplace, ensure a spark screen is positioned in front of the fire to prevent embers or sparks from escaping the fireplace.

Another first defence against fire is ensuring working smoke detectors are installed and tested regularly. If the device is more than 10 years old, it should be replaced with new photoelectric models that interconnect to others within the home.

A fire extinguisher and fire blanket can be essential for protecting the home against a fire. Make sure the equipment is included in the home's emergency kit and that everyone living in the home knows where they are stored and what to use in different types of emergencies. Fire blankets can be purchased from Wormald's online store.

Depending on the type of residence you live in, a fire escape plan is critical to ensuring everyone knows what to do in an emergency. Each plan will depend on household members, those who require assistance and the best way to exit your home.

Ensuring your home is well prepared to prevent or deal with a fire emergency is paramount to the safety of not only your home, but also neighbours. With more people living and working from home, it's more important than ever to ensure your home is fire safe.