Stop A Fire Before It Starts: Fire-Prevention Safety in the Spa

Written by Lora Condon, L.E.

While every salon and spa owner’s worst nightmare is having a fire destroy years of hard work, dedication and love, every year, thousands of salons and spas experience a fire and most of them are 100 percent preventable. With the flick of a switch, a business can be up in flames. This makes prevention key and a must for every business. This article will highlight the most frequent ways fires start. It will also cover less frequent ways, which can be just as dangerous because no one expects it and can grow quickly.

dryerDRYING MACHINES
Most fires in spas start from the dryer. Here are a few tips that can help to prevent dryer fires. First, dryers should not be ran at the hottest temperature. Instead, the medium or low setting is the safest alternative. Also, the dryer should not be left on overnight or unattended. If someone is monitoring the dryer area, you can be alerted to smoke, the smell of something burning, or fire. Towels should not be removed from the dryer until they have completely gone through the cooling cycle. The heat coming off the hot towels can cause chemicals nearby to combust. Residue on towels can also combust when overheated. Towels should be removed immediately after the cycle is complete and lightly monitored to make sure they do not spontaneously catch fire or combust with nearby chemical fumes or vapors. A fire extinguisher can be hung near the dryer area, within easy reach, and without having to go through the fire to reach it. Make sure there is ample ventilation that has been approved by the fire department. Do monthly checks on wires, outlets, and dirt build-up behind the machine.

CANDLES
Candles are another common way that fires can start. The following tips can help to prevent candle fires. First, it is best to not let a candle burn to the bottom. There is usually a metal piece to which the wick is attached that can catch fire. Candles should also not be burned overnight. It is wise to keep a checklist that the closer must go through and complete each night before locking up. Everything flammable should be kept away from flames at all times. Let a candle cool before picking it up. This will avoid reacting suddenly and dropping the candle, thereby spreading the fire. Last, candles should be placed in an open area, with no wires or flammable objects directly above the flames. An alternative to candles are battery operated, flameless candles.

powerOUTLETS
Electronics and outlets go hand in hand and monthly maintenance can really pay off. Getting a fire-prevention specialist in the spa to show the staff what to look for to prevent fires in outlets and electronics is highly suggested. Here are some tips to help prevent electronic and outlet fires. First, make sure the outlet and/or power strip can handle the units plugged into it. Use caution not to overload outlets with too many power strips. Installing more outlets will save money in the long run. Also make sure professionals and clients cannot trip over wires. On a monthly basis, frayed wires should be checked going into the plug and back to each appliance, styling tool, or machine. Heating and air conditioning units in the ceiling might have frayed wires. Tanning beds can have faulty electrical boxes and can easily cause fires. Wax pots, hair dryers, and other warming appliances, such as heating blankets should be unplugged every night. An electrician can check the beds frequently to ensure wires have not started to melt or fray on the inside of the bed. Also, caution should be used with space heaters. Always unplug them and do not run them too long. Static electricity can combust from fumes and cause a fire. A humidifier can be utilized in each room, providing comfort to the client and helping eliminate static energy.

chemicalsCHEMICALS
Most chemicals are very flammable; it is amazing that more fires do not start on a daily basis. Chemicals leave residue and all it takes to light up a surface is for another chemical to mix with the residue or a spark from a cigarette or match. Here are a few of the most common ways chemicals instantly combust and create fires. First, paint residue on sheets coming out of the dryer can combust from the heat of drying.
Vapors from acetone or varnish remover can combust if they get near an open flame. Shirodhara towels are notorious for causing fires while drying, as the oil and heat combine. Flammable liquids can fall on frayed wires and instantly spark. Also, all flammable products must be stored in fireproof containers. Chemical-soaked rags or cotton can be placed in metal, self-closing cans and emptied daily. Most salons and spas have very small kitchens that double as storage for personal and business items. It is imperative that flammable chemicals like acetone are not near the microwave, stove, electric kettle, or hot plate. If the chemicals become overheated, they will combust; chemical fires typically get big and severe quickly. It is important to also note that smoking should not be allowed anywhere near fumes, vapors, or piles of towels with chemicals. Research shows that buildings wired with aluminum wire that was manufactured before 1972 are 55 times more likely to have one or more connections reach fire hazard conditions than are buildings wired with copper.

sixHOLIDAYS
There are a few other ways that fires can start in a spa that many people might forget to consider. While Christmas trees add warmth and spirit to a salon, it is important to take a few precautions to prevent fires. The lights from the tree can get hot so they should turned off each night. In addition, keep it at least three feet from any heat source like a fireplace, outlet, candle, and heater. Menorah candles should be out of reach from clients and children to make sure they are not knocked over. Candles in a pumpkin are hazardous, but if it is necessary to use, keep the candle and pumpkin out of reach from anyone who might knock it over.

sodaEXTINGUISHING FIRES
Now that the most common ways fires can start and how to prevent them has been covered, it is just as important to learn how to put them out once they have started. Grease fires can be put out by covering the pan to diminish the amount of oxygen reaching the flames. Baking soda or salt can be poured on the fire to put it out as well. However, water or flour should never be used on a grease fire because they can encourage the fire to spread. Water, cloth, and paper fires can be put out by pouring water over them and saturating the material. Baking soda can also be used to put out electrical fires.
Spa owners should have material safety data sheets that explain what each chemical is and how to properly dispose of it, the irritation level, and any precautions to take while it is being handled. It is important that each chemical is disposed of according to the material safety data sheets. Specifically, acetone needs to be disposed of in a metal, self-closing container and most chemicals cannot be thrown in the toilet or drain. Despite best efforts, anything can happen, so it is important to have offsite backup files for the business, the financials, the clients, and the staff. The staff could be trained to be aware of smoke, foul smells, toxic fumes, and potential fire hazards. Be sure that the fire and smoke detectors throughout the business are working correctly. If possible, it is also recommended to add a firewall to protect the business, as well as the neighboring businesses, which will prevent the spa from being sued for damages or death. Depending on the location, it may be necessary to have an exit strategy for staff and clients. Stephen Marinaro is a 20-year hairstylist and former firefighter who has seen many mistakes made in a salon that could create fires. He says, “There are many things that could cause fires in a salon such as hot tools, coffee pots, and even cigarettes. I have seen hot tools melt trays, burn towels, burn coffee pots, cause smoke, and even set off alarms. From hot wax to 400 degrees and more hot tools, there are many fire hazards that could cause a salon to go up in flames. It is crucial for your own safety, as well as the safety of others, to be sure that all items that create heat are turned off and not left on surfaces or items that could catch fire.”

Fire Prevention Week is in October and is a perfect time to have fire prevention experts come in and train staff members, as well as do an overall spa check to make sure there are no potential hazards. Proper training and preventative maintenance can save businesses and even lives.


Lora-Condon 2014Lora Condon, The Beauty Buster, is a national, award-winning aesthetician and a beauty consumer advocate. InStyle Magazine featured her as the “Best Eyebrow Shaper in New Jersey,” and she has been featured on Dr. Oz as a leading beauty insider. Condon excels at helping spas creatively market themselves for immediate results. Her book, “SPA WARS: The Ugly Truth About The Beauty Industry” received rave write ups in the New York Times, beauty blogs, and trade magazines.
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