4 Tips for Sauna Fire Protection

April 20, 2017 Lauren Clapper

“A group of men using the sauna…left a newspaper close to the sauna heater.  A short time later staff smelled smoke coming from the sauna area.”

“The CEO was called back to the YMCA as a fire had been reported in the locker room area and the building was being evacuated.”

Saunas are a great way to relax after a workout or relieve stress, yet these and many other sauna fire stories created an average cost of $1 million in damages. From smoke, fire and water from firefighters and sprinkler systems, the repairs you need to restore your facility back to new can quickly add up. Your organization might be totally or partially shut down for a long period time after a sauna fire, causing more difficulties for members and staff.

Many sauna fires are caused by:

  • Drying of the wood which lowers the ignition temperature
  • Electrical malfunction
  • Newspapers, towels or swim suits left on or close to the heater

However, as you can see, these fires are totally preventable with the right attention to care in your facilities and proper enforcement of policies. Here are some of the simplest procedures to follow to ensure the prevention of such incidents and a safe facility for all guests.

1. Installation

A safe facility begins with careful attention to detail when installing any asset. Saunas are no different in this aspect. You’ll want to ensure that you have the proper monitoring equipment, such as:

  • Thermometers
  • Temperature limit controls
  • Timers
  • Heat-sensitive fire sprinklers that are rated for sauna usage
  • Doors that are unlockable inside the room
  • Carbon monoxide detector

The mixture of heat and moisture can be dangerous, so ensure that things such as benches, light fixtures and outlets are at a proper distance from the heater unit (in fact, there should be no outlets or receptacles in the sauna whatsoever). In addition, your floor surfaces should be slip-resistant.

2. Maintenance and Care

The combination of wood, heat and water is a delicate balance in saunas, so it’s important to ensure that you’re properly maintaining your facility. Simple things like packing rocks too tightly on the heater surface, causing your high limit switch to trip, or having excessive water on heaters can create extremely expensive repairs, not to mention endangering your guests.

Making saunas a part of your facility’s routine preventive maintenance plan is an important step towards preventing a fire, particularly for the electric heater. In addition to the two examples mentioned above, make sure that your crew routinely checks for electric shock hazards, proper airflow and any other repairs.

In addition, check for any wood that shows signs of deterioration. Sauna wood typically has a lifespan of 10-12 years, but you should always follow your manufacturer’s guidelines.

3. Staff

Your staff has a huge role to play with checking for hazards. Encourage and train staff to regularly check for warning signs like charred or excessive discoloration of wood, particularly around the heater, to ensure that the right replacement or repairs are implemented. You may want to develop a locker room monitoring procedure that requires and documents staff walkthroughs.  We recommend that staff make these checks every 30-45 minutes.

4. Enforce the Rules

Your guests also have an important role to play in sauna safety. Ensure that you have signs posted visibly around the sauna. Some things rules to keep in mind are:

  • No drying clothes or towels over or near the heaters
  • No sauna use if taking alcohol, drugs or medications
  • No wearing of jewelry as it may become too hot
  • Limit usage time to 15-20 minutes
  • Do not touch the heater as it gets extremely hot during operation
  • Children should be accompanied and supervised by an adult
  •  No lotion, oils, perfumes or any fragrances in the sauna
  • Exit immediately if uncomfortable, dizzy or sleepy
  • All guests should drink plenty of water

In addition to these rules, guests who are pregnant or in poor health should consult their medical provider before using a sauna. With this in mind, you may want to consider having a special form for guests to fill out that explains the rules and requires a signature. This can catch people with any of these conditions before they enter the sauna and is easily enforceable by your staff. 

About the Author

Lauren is a Marketing Writer at Dude Solutions. A devout follower of technology trends, she loves to see how software can improve operations where people live, work and play.

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