Fire Prevention: How To Keep Your Shop in Business - Engine Builder Magazine

Fire Prevention: How To Keep Your Shop in Business

In each of these cases, there was extensive damage to the buildings, inventory and equipment. Business was disrupted, customers inconvenienced and profits lost forever. According to statistics, some of these companies will never recover. They will either never reopen or will be out of business within five years.


It is a fact that many businesses close their doors for good following a serious fire. Insurance will generally reimburse you for the building, equipment and stock lost in a fire. The one critical loss they cannot replace – customers. There will be a period of time when you cannot provide the service or products they want. When this happens, your customers can become someone else’s customers. The best way to keep your automotive business and customer base intact is to invest time and effort in fire prevention.

Ignition sources

The first step in fire prevention is to identify the most common sources of ignition. For most automotive businesses they are electrical equipment, arcing or overloading; cutting and welding; spontaneous ignition or chemical reaction; smoking; and furnaces and hot water heaters. Once the ignition sources have been identified and located within your facility, they must be separated from all flammable and combustible materials. Separation is accomplished through distance or by implementing appropriate control measures including the following:

Electrical equipment, arcing or overloading

•  Establish a three-foot clear zone in front of electrical panels and transformers.

•  Remove unapproved extension cords from your facility.

•  Do not substitute extension cords for permanent wiring.

•  Keep combustibles at least 12 to 18 inches away from fluorescent light fixtures.

•  Beware of unauthorized electrical appliances, especially small electric heaters.

•  Retain a competent electrical contractor to perform regular inspections of electrical systems.

Cutting and welding

•  Establish approved, isolated areas for cutting and welding operations.

•  Train employees in the safe operation of welding and firefighting equipment.

•  Station adequate fire extinguishing equipment nearby.

•  Remove all combustibles from the area; hot sparks may land up to 35 feet away.

•  Sweep the floors clean in the area surrounding the welding or cutting activity.

•  Never weld adjacent to containers of flammable liquids, including automotive gas tanks.

•  Assign a “fire watch” to monitor the area for 30 minutes after welding.

•  Inspect welding apparatus on a regular basis to ensure it is in proper working order.

Spontaneous ignition or chemical reaction

•  Soiled rags and uniforms should be stored in closed metal containers.

•  Rags soaked in gas, oil, paint or thinner should be placed in approved, self-closing metal cans.

•  Battery charging areas must be well-ventilated to prevent a build-up of explosive hydrogen gas.

•  Combustible materials should not be stored close to sources of heat; they can undergo a chemical change that results in a lower ignition temperature.


•  A 100% “smoke-free” environment is preferred.

•  Paint and body shops should be posted (and enforced) as “No Smoking” areas.

•  If smoking is permitted, establish approved smoking areas and provide appropriate receptacles.

Furnaces and hot water heaters

•  Retain a qualified contractor to inspect all heating equipment and furnaces prior to winter.

•  Clear the immediate area of all combustible materials.

•  Do not store janitorial or other paper supplies inside furnace closets or next to water heaters.

•  Clean and inspect all flues prior to using equipment.

•  Maintain a safe distance between overhead heaters and all combustible storage.

Flammable and combustible materials

Flammable and combustible materials provide a fuel source that is easily ignited and can spread fire throughout a facility. Control measures for flammable and combustible materials commonly found in automotive businesses include the following:


•  Never use gasoline as a solvent. There are many other less flammable alternatives.

•  Store gasoline outside the building whenever possible.

•  If it must be stored inside, keep gasoline in FM or UL approved “safety cans.”

•  Always transfer gasoline out of tanks prior to removing them from the vehicle.

•  Gasoline transfer operations should be conducted outside.

•  Transfer the gasoline using an approved “gas caddy” or equivalent, never into open containers.

•  Clean up all spills as quickly as possible.

•  Avoid using incandescent utility lights around gasoline. Sealed fluorescent lights are safer.

Other flammable and combustible liquids

•  Use nonflammable solvents, not gasoline, for parts cleaning.

•  Store flammable and combustible liquids inside approved storage cabinets.

•  Limit quantities of flammable liquids in the work area to a one day supply.

•  Store large containers of flammables, such as 55 gallon drums, outside or in approved rooms equipped with explosion-proof electrical fixtures and 24-hour ventilation system.

For questions about fire prevention in your shop, contact the Zurich Risk Engineering Department at 800-821-7803 or visit

You May Also Like

Utilizing Instagram

“When we started, we had no business at all… that’s when I started using Instagram,” Yaghoubian says. “Back then I didn’t know a lot about social media, but it works for business really well, and especially the automotive industry on Instagram.”

The Industry has changed, so should you.

“One picture I posted got 7,600 likes, it reached 112,000 people, I got 982 profile visits from that post, 758 people saved it, and 208 people sent it to other people,” says Aaron Yaghoubian, owner of Arlington Machine in Riverside, CA, talking about an Instagram photo he shared in August of an Evo 8 short block project. “You can’t beat it. Some engine builders are over here crying, but they don’t want to use something that’s free. They have the device in their hand, now download the app and do it.”

Higher Revving Education

We’ve all seen the ads in magazines and online for schools, classes and seminars on tuning an ever-increasing number of engines and even transmissions in today’s cars and trucks. The better ones will include the use of a chassis dyno to show real-time results of the step-by-step methods they teach.

Chassis vs Engine Dyno

We spoke with a couple shops that utilize both dyno types to get their take on the advantages, disadvantages and reasons to have one over the other or both.

Tradeshow Season

While the rest of the world tends to slow down in the fourth quarter, our industry is starting to rev up. That’s because it’s tradeshow season, and the excitement for next year is always palpable!

OE Parts vs. the Aftermarket

Many of your customers believe that OEM parts are better than aftermarket parts. We wanted to dispel some of the myths once and for all. Without getting into the mud about which brands are better. It is important to note that not all parts are created equal, and this includes both aftermarket and OE replacement parts.

Other Posts

Setting Up an Instagram Account

The old saying goes, “A picture is worth 1,000 words.” Well, in the world of social media, that same picture is not just worth 1,000 words, but could also be worth thousands of dollars in new business for your engine shop. By now you’ve likely seen our features on setting up and utilizing Facebook for your business. Next on our ‘to-do list’ is an introduction to Instagram for those of you who haven’t started utilizing this social media platform.

The Potential in Differential

Is growth part of your business strategy? It comes in a lot of different forms, but when it’s adding a new service offering or product for your customers, it can be nerve-racking at the very least. The additional investment in tools, equipment, training or people weighed against the unknown outcome leaves you holding all the risk, unless there is something that’s a perfect fit.

How To Put Your Facebook Page To Work

A couple months ago, we walked you through the setup of a Facebook business page. Hopefully you’ve gone ahead and created that page and took some time over the last couple months to play around with ways to engage with an audience. If not, go back and check out the February issue. It’s worth your while to do so!

Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement

Once you’ve obtained your IPR, then what? What can you do when you find another person or business violating your patent, trademark, or trade dress? Below, we take a closer look at the steps you can take to enforce your IPR against unauthorized use.