For a fire to start, three things are needed:

  • A source of ignition
  • Fuel
  • Oxygen


If any one of these are missing, a fire cannot start. Taking measures to avoid the three coming together will therefore reduce the chances of a fire occurring.

Sources of Ignition

There are various ways that you can reduce the risk caused by potential sources of ignition by removing or reducing sources of ignition, for example:

  • Wherever possible replace a potential ignition source with a safer alternative.
  • Replace naked flames and radiant heaters with fixed convector heaters or a central heating system, restrict the movement of and guard portable heating appliances.
  • Separate ignition hazards and combustibles e.g. ensure sufficient clear space between lights and combustibles.
  • Operate a safe smoking policy in designated smoking areas and prohibit smoking elsewhere.
  • Ensure electrical and mechanical gas equipment is installed, used, maintained and protected in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Check all areas where hot work (e.g. welding) has been carried out to ensure that no ignition has taken place or any smouldering materials remain that may cause of fire.
  • Ensure that no-one carrying out work on gas fittings, involving exposed pipes that contain or have contained flammable gases, uses any source of ignition such as, blow-lamps or hot-air guns.
  • Take precautions to avoid arson.

Sources of Fuel

There are various ways that you can reduce the risks caused by materials and substances which burn, for example:

  • Reduce stocks of flammable materials, liquids and gases on display in public areas to a minimum. Keep remaining stock in dedicated storerooms or storage areas where the public are not allowed to go, and keep the minimum required for the operation of the business.
  • Ensure flammable materials, liquids and gases, are kept to a minimum, and are stored properly with adequate separation distances between them.
  • Keep areas containing flammable gasses ventilated.
  • Do not keep flammable solids, liquids and gases together.
  • Remove, or treat large areas of highly combustible wall and ceiling linings, e.g. polystyrene or carpet tiles, to reduce the rate of flame spread across the surface.
  • Develop a formal system for the control of combustible waste by ensuring that waste materials and rubbish are not allowed to build up and are carefully stored until properly disposed of, particularly at the end of the day.
  • Take action to avoid storage areas being vulnerable to arson or vandalism.
  • Check all areas where hot work (e.g. welding) has been carried out to ensure that no ignition has taken place and no smouldering or hot materials remain that may cause a fire later

Sources of oxygen

You can reduce the potential source of oxygen supplied to a fire by:

  • Closing all doors, windows and other openings not required for ventilation,
  • particularly out of working hours;
  • Shutting down ventilation systems which are not essential to the function of the premises;
  • Not storing oxidising materials near or with any heat source or flammable materials.
  • Controlling the use and storage of oxygen cylinders, ensuring that they are not leaking, are not used to ‘sweeten’ the atmosphere, and that where they are located is adequately ventilated.