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The Fire Risks of Hoarding in the Workplace

hoarding office

You may know someone who is a hoarder. But hoarders are not limited to just houses and apartments. They can even be around workplaces such as offices, stores, universities and industrial facilities.

Maybe you’ve noticed some companies with employees exhibiting hoarding behavior where they tend to stockpile inventories or equipment which tend to leave exit points blocked for other employees.

You may ask why hasn’t anyone taken notice? Answer? Because hoarding tends to creep slowly into place. This usually happens in businesses with large storage areas and excess stock. Also, when employees are too busy at work, there’s very little time for them to clean. The clutter may start to extend beyond their desks, and soon whole office rooms and production areas are engulfed with random things. With no one picking up the slack, the clutter can become a growing fire hazard.

Fire risks such as hoarding doesn’t just happen overnight, we do know that people have the tendency to adapt while stuff accumulates around them. This is called ‘clutter blindness’ and this is a dangerous type of behavior that may result in workplace fires.

fire in the office

Conventional Fire Alarm Systems vs. Addressable Fire Alarm Systems

In overstuffed workplaces, wiring can get frayed or worn out from the weight of things mounted in piles. Pests such as rodents could chew on wires and leave them damaged and out in the open. You wouldn’t know if your wiring has been compromised until you start to smell something burning. Test and Tag services from Fireco can only test appliances if anyone can remember whether they exist!

By the time, you realise it, the smoke maybe coming from under the piles, and your effort to clear out the clutter in order get to the fire might be too late. Fires tend to spread rapidly especially in hoarded workplaces where most of the stuff is combustible.

That said, fires can easily happen in work areas that are compressed with huge piles of company property. Any heating unit, can easily tip over and cause an instant starting fire.

Also in a hoarding situation, finding the fire extinguisher or any firefighting equipment may prove too difficult, as things are usually buried underneath piles or behind boxes. This can leave your BWOF unable to be obtained and a business operating illegally.

One thing is certain, hoarding puts people in harm’s way, and first responders may have less of a chance getting to people trapped inside a hoarded area. They cannot move quickly enough due to being blocked by the clutter. Clutter doesn’t just impede firefighters; they can be injured by burning objects falling from the top of the piles.

The best solution to a hoarding situation in the workplace, whether a retail store, office or commercial space is through consistent fire prevention and proper safety best practices. Companies can schedule regular workplace clean-outs and fire safety training for employees. Think about it, if there is hoarding behavior in the workplace, the chance of a fire breaking out puts everyone in the building at risk. For fire training, BWOFs and inspections call Fireco.

If you need a fire assessment done on fire safety in your workplace, commercial space or industrial complex. Consult with Fireco. Call us 0800 101 232 or email Fireco at info@fireco.co.nz

If you need regular office cleaning we strongly recommend our sister company CleanScape.co.nz for your cleaning services.

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