The LWF Blog

Fire Safety for Healthcare Premises – High Risk Fire Hazards & Precautions – Part 99

October 28, 2019 2:51 pm

In LWF’s blog series for healthcare professionals, our aim is to give information on best practice of fire safety in hospitals and other healthcare premises. In part 98, LWF looked at how X-ray film should be stored depending upon its age and where it was produced. In part 99, we will consider the potential fire risk posed by physiotherapy departments.

Although a physiotherapy department might not seem like a particularly high fire risk area to some, there have been cases where fires have started in physiotherapy departments due to the overheating of wax baths.

In order to reduce the waiting time each day for warming up a wax bath, there were cases where the bath was left switched on overnight, causing overheating and resulting in a fire. A suggested remedy for the waiting period is to use a timer-switch which operates the power to socket-outlets supplying the wax bath, allowing it to be turned on in advance of the department appointments without it being left on unattended all night. The timing devices should be routinely checked to ensure the settings are correct and they are still in good working order.

Wax itself is highly flammable and, as such, the wax baths should incorporate a thermal safety device. A thermostat to control the temperature within the range considered safe for a patient (maximum 50 degrees Celsius) should be provided and it should be set to ‘trip’ at a safe temperature (60 degrees max). Such safeguards will help to ensure that no overheating occurs when the bath is empty or only partially filled.

For the purposes of patient safety as well as fire safety, the operating temperature range of a wax bath should be between 45 and 50 degrees Celsius. Overheating occurs between 55 and 60 degrees Celsius. Automatic detection should be considered when it is normal practice to leave electrical equipment unattended and switched on.

Any sterilizing of the physiotherapy wax by heat is a high fire-risk practice and as such must be carried out in non-combustible surroundings under proper supervision. It is important that firefighting apparatus is available within the area it is carried out and that staff must be trained in the correct use of the extinguishers. Appropriate extinguishers for this purpose would be a 6 litre foam (AFFF or FFFP) or a 4.5 kg powder extinguisher. You can find out more about different types of fire extinguishers and their purpose at

In part 100 of this series, LWF will look at the potential fire risks found in the magnetic resonance diagnostic equipment. In the meantime, if you have any questions about this blog, or wish to discuss your own project with one of our fire engineers, please contact us.

Lawrence Webster Forrest has been working with their clients for over 25 years to produce innovative and exciting building projects. If you would like further information on how LWF and fire strategies could assist you, please contact LWF on freephone 0800 410 1130.

While care has been taken to ensure that information contained in LWF’s publications is true and correct at the time of publication, changes in circumstances after the time of publication may impact on the accuracy of this information

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