Hot Plate Fire

Key Learnings

  • Lockout / tagout – Positively disconnect or lock power to unused equipment which would be an uncontrolled hazard if energized.

  • Human factors – Recognize Potential for employee/student confusion in selection of operating controls (what if analysis).

  • Fire extinguisher training – Reduce potential property damage by training students and employees on use of fire extinguishers.  

Effects of Incident 

Damage to hotplate and hood work surface.  Fire was discovered immediately and extinguished by attending personnel.  Had this incident occurred when lab was unattended, the impact would have been greater. 


A fire retardant polypropylene chemical hood was used for chemical work. The hood contained both a recessed hot plate and two portable hot plates which were located on the hood surface.  The hood had been relocated from another lab and the recessed hot plate was determined to be non-operational.  The recessed area above the hotplate was then covered with a polyethylene top and sealed to provide additional work surface. However, the power to the hotplate had never been disconnected.  A student, mistaking the recessed hotplate power switch on the hood console for the control to one of the surface mounted portable hotplates, turned it to the “on” position. Upon seeing evidence of fire beneath the work surface, the employee left the lab to obtain assistance from a coworker, who was trained in use of fire extinguishers, who then pried off the polyethylene cover and extinguished the fire. 


  • Confusion on hot plate controls.

  • Availability of power to a piece of equipment which was not intended to receive power – Failure to disconnect power.

Corrective Actions to Prevent Reoccurrence

  • Power was positively disconnected to any recessed hotplates not intended for use – Reminder sent to lab community to check for similar hazards in their labs.

  • Lab occupants contacted fire marshal for fire extinguisher training – Reminder to lab community on availability of fire extinguisher training.

  • Reminder to lab community on safety training available which includes human factors and process safety awareness.