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Fire Safety: Dangerous Substances

12th January 2022

Dangerous substances can have an extraordinary effect on fires, causing explosions, and can lead to devastating results; loss of lives, property damages, environmental damage, injuries, and expensive business costs. Explosions can be caused by flammable liquids or gases, or by combustible dust. If there’s enough of the flammable substance mixed with the oxygen in the air, it’s sensitive to an ignition source to cause an explosion.

Each year people are injured in the workspace due to flammable substances accidentally catching fire and exploding. The work which uses or creates these chemicals, liquids, gases, or dust is extremely hazardous and requires a thorough risk assessment.

Most fires are preventable if the correct risks are identified and assessed, and appropriate procedures are in place. As an employer, landlord, occupier, or owner of a business or residential property, you’re responsible for the fire risk assessment of flammable and dangerous substances. This blog will cover fire safety advice and guidance around the dangerous substances and hazards in your building that may cause the fires.

What are the hazards?

A lot of substances in the workplace can cause fires and explosions, and these range from marked flammable chemicals, paint thinners, and welding gases, to the less obvious; packing materials, oil and grease, and dust from wood.

The first step to preventing fires is to identify the risks in your building.

Case Study

This case study is a practical example of how a fire started due to flammable materials and how this could’ve been prevented. 

A worker was using cellulose thinners; a highly flammable substance, to wash the paint-spraying equipment when he knocked over the container and splashed the thinners over his overalls and shoes. He then went into a nearby room to clean himself, but the room had drying ovens in. The heat from these overs ignited the vapours from the thinners, and set his overalls and shoes on fire, resulting in serious burns.

This incident could have been easily avoided if the employer had carried out a fire risk assessment to recognise that the thinners shouldn’t have been used in this way, and then trained his staff accordingly.

The Law

The Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002 require employers and business owners to complete a risk assessment of fires and explosions happening due to work activities involving dangerous and flammable substances.

Fire Safety Responsibilities

To prevent these fires or explosions from happening, you need to identify what substances and processes have the potential to cause them, and who and how many people may be at risk due to them. 

Once you have done this, you need to consider what measures you need to take to remove the risks. These will include any measures that can prevent fires from happening in the first place and the precautions that will protect people from injuries.


  • Think about the fire and explosion risks from processes and substances used in your business
  • Use supplier safety data sheets for information about flammable substances
  • Consider reducing the number of flammable substances or explosive substances you store on site
  • Keep ignition sources away from flammable substances
  • Dispose of flammable substances safely
  • Maintain a tidy workplace; tidy up rubbish, clean up grease or dust that could make a fire worse
  • Review your assessment regularly

If you require any further information or want to enquire about our one-stop-shop or have us complete a fire risk assessment for you, then contact us today on 0800 799 9514, or click here to fill out our online enquiry form.