Fire Prevention


Employees are expected to keep their workplace free of accumulation of combustible waste and other materials that prevent access to exits and emergency equipment, or result in an unsafe work place. Find more information about laboratory housekeeping here.


Due to the amount of combustible materials and chemicals, housekeeping in laboratories is extremely important. Take pride in your lab. A clean and orderly lab is often a safe lab. Immediately dispose of unneeded packaging, chemicals, equipment, and furnishings to reduce hazards. Avoid retaining half full containers of the same material; use a material until it is gone and then dispose of the container before opening a new one. Properly store equipment, supplies, and tools so they are out of the way when not is use. Aisles must be clear of clutter that would hinder safe exiting. See additional "housekeeping tips" to help you maintain a clean lab.


Barbecue Safety Precautions

All Barbecues must be located at least 25 feet from any university structure. NO barbecues can be located on porches, balconies or roof decks. Locate barbecues so that cooking smoke does not enter air intakes for buildings. Also, an ABC type of fire extinguisher must be readily available and located within the immediate area of the cooking equipment. It is recommended that all cooking occur on a noncombustible concrete surface or a very green and plush lawn area.

Charcoal and Wood Barbecues

  • Use only "approved" starter fluids
  • Never add fluid to the fire once it has been started. Even a smoldering fire can cause the fluid to flash and follow the stream back to the can
  • DISPOSE OF CHARCOAL SAFELY! Hot charcoal is a fire hazard and UW does not furnish metal cans. Bring a sturdy metal can to put hot coals in, or enough water to soak them thoroughly if you cannot wait for them to burn out and cool before you remove them from campus.

Propane Fueled Barbecues

  • Make sure the connecting hose is not crimped: check all connections, hoses, regulators and grill connections for leaks
  • If you smell gas, shut off the valve at the tank
  • Keep the cylinder out of direct sunlight: the added heat increases the pressure inside the cylinder
  • Always leave the cylinder in an upright position: propane tanks contain both liquid and gas, laying the cylinder down can cause a serious liquid leak
  • Never store propane cylinders inside a building, basement or garage: a minor leak in the cylinder can cause a major explosion

No Open Fires are Allowed

If you have any questions about barbecue fire safety, please contact an EH&S fire safety professional at (206) 543-0465.


Building Conditions


missing ceiling tile
Keep at least 18" of clearance below fire sprinklers, paying particular attention to tall shelves and storage near ceilings.
Make sure that ceiling tiles are seated in place. Contact Facilities Services to replace any missing or loose tiles. Do not lift ceiling tiles for any reason as some tiles on Campus contain asbestos. Do not route power cords, phone or network lines above ceilings.


Controlling Ignition Sources

According to NFPA statistics, approximately 40% of all nonresidential structure fires are caused by electrical distribution, open flame, heating, and other equipment. The last two major UW lab fires were started by unattended equipment. Please use good judgment in leaving processes or experiments unattended.

Fire at Parrington Hall caused by an over-used extension cord draped over this couch.Temporary heating appliances and open flames must not be left unattended when in use.

Distillation and other separation operations involving flammable and combustible liquids must be protected from ignition sources and performed in fume hoods or other suitable environments.

Extension cords may not be used in place of permanent wiring. A commercial quality multiple outlet strip (Surge Suppressor), with a built-in circuit breaker, plugged directly into a wall receptacle is acceptable where existing service is inadequate. Do not connect extension cords or power strips together (no "daisy-chaining"). Also, keep electrical cords in good condition. Replace or take out of service any equipment with frayed or damaged cords.


Fire Prevention Plan

A written fire prevention plan is required for major workplace fire hazards such as cutting and welding, roofing, open flame use, etc. The use of welding, cutting or other hot work equipment as defined by the Uniform Fire Code, requires a permit from the Fire Department that outlines the necessary administrative and engineering controls.


Holiday Decorations Fire Prevention

Tree Safety

  • The use of artificial trees and decorations is advised
  • Artificial trees may be decorated with miniature Underwriters Laboratories-listed low heat producing electric lights
  • Electric lights are not permitted on metallic trees
  • The use of live or natural cut Christmas trees is discouraged in University buildings - they dry out quickly and fire retardant treatment may interfere with the tree's ability to draw water
  • If a natural cut tree is to be used in a University building, the following criteria must be adhered to:
    • Tree stands for natural cut trees must meet Seattle Fire Code (Seattle Fire Department) water capacity requirements
    • Trees are checked daily for dryness and water added at least daily
    • Natural cut trees cannot be decorated with electric lights in University buildings
    • Open flames and candles cannot be used as decorations
    • Natural cut trees, wreaths and garlands must be removed as soon as possible after the holiday observance

Other Decorations Safety Criteria at UW

  • All decorations or displays such as wreaths and garlands other than natural cut trees must be flameproof or fire retardant
  • Decorations must not obstruct sprinkler systems, access to fire extinguishers, fire alarm pull stations or block the minimum width of exit ways
  • All electrical cords and lights must carry the label of Underwriters Laboratories (UL)
  • Electrical cords and lights must be carefully inspected before use for cracks, areas of wear, or broken, exposed or frayed wires
  • Do not link more than three light strands unless the directions indicate it is safe - connect strings to an extension cord before plugging into the outlet
  • Decorative lighting must be turned off when the premises are unoccupied


Laboratory Doors

Most University laboratories are accessed from fire rated corridors. Doors must be kept closed for fire safety, security and to maintain appropriate air balance within the laboratory room or suite. Wedging a lab door open or blocking an exit pose significant fire safety hazards and are violations of the Fire Code.


Placement of Decorations

Decorations must not disguise, cover, or interfere with any safety device or equipment, including fire safety equipment such as fire extinguishers, exit signs, sprinkler heads and piping, and fire alarm pull stations. They must not intrude into or block the minimum width of exit ways.


Refrigerators and Freezers

Flammable liquids may only be stored or cooled in refrigerators or freezers that are suitable, listed, and signed for such use. Flammable liquids placed in an ordinary refrigerator or freezer may result in an explosion. For more information click here.

UW Purchasing notifies EH&S of new freezer and refrigerator procurements. This prompts EH&S to provide a memorandum outlining information outlined herein and warning stickers to departments. Stickers may also be requested by calling EH&S at 543-0465. The following warning signs are available through EH&S:


Guidelines for Placing and Labeling Refrigerators and Freezers:

  1. The unit should be located in the laboratory or room as soon as possible so that it does not impair emergency exiting. The unit may not be located in a corridor, hallway, or other exit way unless specifically approved by Environmental Health and Safety.

  2. The unit must be plugged directly into a building electrical receptacle. Use of an electrical extension cord may present a fire risk and is a violation of the fire code.
  3. Flammable liquids should not be stored or cooled in the unit unless it is specifically designed for this purpose; doing so may result in an explosion. If this unit is associated with research or located in or near a laboratory and not UL listed for flammable liquids, please affix the enclosed sticker "CAUTION Not Explosion Proof" to the unitís door (pictured left).

  4. If the unit is located in a research facility, affix only the appropriate food and drink sticker on the unit, but not both stickers. Consumable food and drink may not be stored in a unit that is used for research. Similarly research materials may not be stored in units dedicated to consumable food and drink. Units for food and drink may not be placed in laboratories, although they may be placed in adjacent offices. Units in food service facilities, break rooms, and other non-research areas, need not be labeled with a food and drink sticker.


Space Heaters

See Building Heat and Portable Space Heaters for more information regarding policies about heater use on campus and other options available.


"An once of prevention is worth a pound of cure" . Henry de Bracton, 1240