Fire Safety Tips for the Workplace
October is Fire Safety Month and there’s no time like the present to ensure your plan is up-to-date and every employee is prepared in the event of a fire. Here are five safety tips from our certified Safety Experts.
For every business, it’s important that a fire safety plan is in place to keep employees and visitors safe. OSHA requires employers to implement a program for fire protection, prevention, and evacuation Depending on your industry, you may need more than one type of safety plan, and every building is required by local municipalities to have fire evacuation plans posted.
Tip 1: Plan and Designated Safety Plan Roles
A unique fire safety plan and evacuation procedures are needed in every workplace. Regular training and evaluations of potential fire hazards will help ensure the safety of your employees and business assets. Many companies review fire safety plans at pre-set intervals throughout the year.
Fire safety procedures should include:
- Practice and designate a time with all employees to review the fire safety plan in accordance with your industry and local fire safety laws.
- Designate, assign, and train roles and procedures for your fire safety plan. Who will handle the fire extinguisher? Who checks-in employees at the designated check-in location?
- Outline and ensure every employee know the designated check-in location.
The best defense against fire hazards is proactive plans that include education, training, and employee awareness.
Tip 2: Minimize Hazards
One of the best ways to prevent fires is to regularly mitigate fire hazards before they become a problem. Training your managers and employees on what to look for is important and can help ensure your workplace is safe for everyone. Things to review:
- Electrical Outlet & Circuit Overload: How many appliances are plugged into one outlet? Do you have sections or groupings within your office that have multiple machines or appliances plugged in? Plugging in too many appliances can overload the outlet/circuit and can cause fires.
- Electrical Cords and Outlets: Do any have damage? Exposed wires? If so, dispose of immediately. (Helpful hint: check with your local municipality, they may be able to recycle the items!) Exposed electrical wiring can be deadly, report any that you see immediately and stay away from the area.
- Flammable Material Storage: If your employees handle flammable materials, they need to be regularly stored in a “flammables cabinet” and properly secured to ensure they aren’t stored near electrical equipment or exposed to heat, flames, sparks or anything that could cause them to combust.
- Flammable Chemicals: Certain chemicals cannot be stored together. Check labels and have a process in place for checks and balances to ensure employees know how to handle these materials.
- Trash & Recycling: Trash and recycling piles are highly flammable and can cause fire hazards. Ensure these piles aren’t stored near electrical equipment, are emptied regularly, and are not stored near exits so they don’t cause an obstacle or hazard in the event of an emergency.
Tip 3: Monitor Fire Prone Areas
Almost every workplace has an area that is more fire-prone than others. For example:
- Kitchens, employee/staff break rooms, with appliances like toasters, coffee pot, refrigerators, or microwaves. (Note: make sure the appliances aren’t overloading one outlet or circuit.)
- Server rooms can become very hot and a hazard if they are not vented properly.
- Designate smoking/tobacco use areas to ensure they don’t come close to or in contact with combustible or flammable materials. Provide proper disposal containers to keep sparks or embers from coming in contact with your building, flammable chemicals, surrounding landscape areas, trash receptacles, etc.
- Labs and workstations that contain hazardous and flammable materials.
Awareness and training your employees are the best ways to ensure an accident doesn’t occur. Workers must take additional care in these spaces and unplug any electrical equipment or appliances when not in use. Ensure proper storage of flammable materials, as they need to be kept away from high-heat environments and should not be stored near incompatible items.
Tip 4: Fire Extinguishers, Fire Detection Systems, and Fire Suppression Systems
Does your workplace have a fire detection (smoke alarms) and suppression system (sprinklers)? Your building should have regular inspections to check that all of the equipment is working properly and updates are made as needed. Fire extinguishers are just as important and proper training is needed for every employee that will handle them. The number and type of fire extinguisher depends on potential hazards within your workplace. A few things to remember about fire extinguishers:
- Designate employees to handle extinguishers in the event of a fire, and for inspection. And provide the necessary training.
- Each month, the designated employee(s) should inspect the extinguishers to confirm they are charged and within the expiration date. (Yes, fire extinguishers can expire!)
- All extinguishers must be easy to reach, not blocked or obstructed by shelving, desks, workstations, etc., and visible.
Tip 5: Clear Exits and Paths to Safety
Every building is required to have emergency exits and they must remain clear of obstacles and obstructions at all times. It is just as important that emergency exits are clearly labeled, well lit, and the proper emergency exits maps are posted for all employees and visitors that may come into your place of business. It is also important to not store flammable liquids along exit paths inside and outside the building.