Fire prevention

There are many causes of fire, and the University is not immune to them. Learn how to minimise the possibility of a fire.


Electrical safety

The main causes of electrical fires are:

  • Old equipment
  • Incorrectly modified/wired equipment
  • Overloaded multi-plug boards
  • Faulty equipment - This is why it is important to have all portable electrical equipment tested and tagged prior to it's introduction into the workplace and then at periodical intervals

Note: Multi-plug boards must not be connected to other multi-plug boards as the wiring in each is limited in capacity by design i.e. a four point multi-plug board can only provide power to four other devices. Overloading the board can cause the wiring to overheat, leading to fire starting.

Heaters and other high-draw waltage devices must not be plugged into multi-plug boards as they will overload the wiring.


Keeping things nice and tidy assists in preventing fires. If we do not, combustable objects may drop on heaters or hot objects may drop on to combustible items.

Do not use wedges to keep doors open

Using a wedge to prop open the doors place everyone in the building at risk, as this will allow the smoke to spread throughout the building along corridors that are necessary for escape

For this reason, do not hold back older style smoke-stop doors with wedges or door hooks. Staff should remove these wedges as soon as they are spotted.  


Again, heaters can be a problem. Fan heaters with thermastatic control may appear to be turned off, and fires can start if an item is placed in front of them. 

In other cases, heaters may be on a separate circuit that energises unexpectedly. 

Some electrical equipment, and in particular older electronic equipment, has fans designed to prevent overheating. Never block or cover the vents on such equipment.

Hot work and equipment

If you are buying or using items that heat up in normal operations, you need to think about how and where they are being used. 

In some cases (e.g. when using laser-cutting booths) fires are anticipated, so you need to have a fire blanket or other means of extinguishing a fire nearby.

Never set up equipment that is designed to produce heat, sparks or flame (for example if soldering, grinding, burning) in an area where flammable materials might be present. A risk assessment or Hot Work Permit will be required. If in doubt, speak to your HSW

At the very least, hot items need to be placed in an area where they cannot set things alight.

Lithium ion batteries

Lithium ion batteries supply power to many kinds of devices, including smartphones, laptops, e-bikes, scooters, vapes, smoke alarms, toys, and even cars. Like any product, a small number of these batteries can be defective – they can overheat, catch fire or explode.

Here’s some advice to keep you and your family safe.

Fire safety tips

  • Do not charge a device under a pillow, on the bed or on a couch – they can overheat and cause a fire
  • Do not use or charge a battery that shows signs of swelling, overheating or damage 
  • Do not charge e-bikes, scooters, power tool batteries, remote control cars and any other lithium ion powered devices while you sleep pr whilst you are away from home
  • Only charge e-bikes and scooters in designated charging areas. Do not charge them in offices, bedrooms or corridors
  • Only use the battery that is designed for the device
  • Only use the charging equipment that came with the device, and do not use it if it is damaged
  • Do not leave batteries or devices in direct sunlight or in hot vehicles
  • Store batteries away from anything that can catch fire

If you have concerns

  • If your device or battery is very hot, smoking or catches fire while charging, turn off the power if this can be done safely
  • Move the device away from anything that can catch fire
  • If you are in any immediate danger, get out and call 111 

Fire safety at home

Fire & Emergency NZ (FENZ) have produced some great resources for fire safety and evacuation at home. These include:

Document Control
Version: 2.0
Last Updated: Feb 2023
Next Review: Feb 2025
Approver: Associate Director, Health Safety & Wellbeing