Fire emergencies in the workplace can lead to injuries, property damage, and sometimes death. Thousands of workplace fires occur annually, resulting in millions of dollars in damages. While some are accidental, many fires often result from carelessness or negligence.
In the United States, fire departments respond to an average of more than one fire every minute. This startling statistic translates to hundreds of thousands of workplace fires across the country. While most of these fires are minor and cause minimal damage, they nevertheless pose a threat to the safety of the employees.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration(OSHA), organizations and companies must adhere to strict safety guidelines as required by law. The regulations may vary depending on the specific industry and hazardous materials present in each company. Companies have a moral obligation to care for their employees during working hours. Additionally, companies are required to provide a safe working environment for their employees. Informing an employee of their workplace rights is necessary.
Understanding fire safety hazards and taking the appropriate steps to prevent them is ultimately essential to protect yourself and others.
Have a Fire Safety Plan
Employers should train their employees on their workplace’s fire safety plan to know what to do in the event of a fire.
Every organization should have a fire prevention plan and evacuation strategy. This plan must be in writing, conspicuously posted in the workplace, and available for all employees to thoroughly review. Some critical components of this plan include:
- Identifying evacuation routes, evacuation protocol, and instructions on how to use your company’s emergency notification system
- Locating fire extinguishers
- Identifying designated safe areas
- Clearly articulating all major fire hazards
- Instructing employees how to properly handle and store hazardous materials
- Developing a list containing the names/titles of internal fire safety guards
Fire Safety Tips for the Workplace
- Workspaces. Keep workplaces dry, well-ventilated, and free of dust.
- Use a fire safety checklist. Make sure this is in a handy location for quick reference.
- Workspace clutter. Your workspace should be organized and free of clutter, as the latter could be a potential fire hazard. Clutter may also restrict access to escape routes and emergency exits.
- Equipment. Do not place equipment that produces heat near flammable objects. Store flammable materials and chemicals away from heat sources.
- Electrical safety. Electrical failures account for almost 40 percent of workplace fires. Check electrical cords periodically and have damaged wires serviced or replaced. Do not use damaged electrical cords or outlets. Use only electrical equipment regulated by an international lab such as UL. Don’t place equipment emitting significant heat near combustible materials or objects.
- Power outlets. Do not overload power outlets with too many cords. Ensure that plugs fit the outlet (i.e., insert two-prong plugs into three-slot outlets).
- Emergency exits. Learn the escape routes and exits in your building. All emergency routes and doors should be unobstructed. During an emergency exit, it must remain unlocked. The emergency exit map must be visibly displayed, and the emergency exit sign should be well lit.
- Fire and smoke alarms. Install smoke detection systems in all offices and rooms. Test your smoke alarms at least once a month and replace batteries every year. A faulty alarm must be replaced immediately. Some manufacturers recommend replacing smoke detectors after a decade for optimal alarm performance. Never turn off smoke alarms.
- Fire extinguishers. They must be up-to-date on their inspections. Make sure employees are aware of how to correctly use a fire extinguisher during an emergency. To learn how to properly use a fire extinguisher, click here.
- Smoking. There should be designated smoking areas outside of the building. Extinguish smoking materials and dispose of them safely. Never smoke in storerooms or chemical storage areas. All employees should be aware of the hazards of smoking inside the building.
- Fire drills. Perform routine fire drills at the workplace. Make sure an evacuation procedure is in place. Remember to respond to a fire emergency quickly and calmly.
How to Respond to a Workplace Fire
- If a fire breaks out in the building, sound the alarm to alert other employees.
- Call 911 immediately, and don’t hang up until the emergency responder instructs you to do so.
- If the fire is small, you may attempt to extinguish it with portable fire extinguishers. Evacuate immediately if a fire extinguisher cannot control the fire. Notify others to exit the building, too.
- Follow the escape routes and go to the designated meeting place outside the building.
- Close the doors behind you when exiting the building to help prevent the fire from spreading. Make sure everyone has safely evacuated the building before doing so.
- Never use an elevator. Depending on the magnitude of the fire, elevators may shut down mid-transit due to electrical damage.
- Assist those who require first aid. After the evacuation, help any employees who may have been injured either by the flames or smoke inhalation.
- Once you are out, stay out. Never go back inside a smoke-filled or burning building.
Fire safety in the workplace affects everyone. Every year, fires occurring in the workplace result in injuries and fatalities. These tips can ensure you and your coworkers are safe in a fire emergency.
Preparing for a fire emergency is essential, but preventing workplace fires from occurring in the first place is crucial. Workplace fire safety is everyone’s responsibility and should be handled seriously. Stay alert for potential hazards and report them promptly. If an emergency does arise, however, always follow the instructions of the firefighters and other emergency responders.
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For professional and immediate fire damage repair or smoke remediation services, do not hesitate to contact PuroClean Emergency Services of Dayton, Ohio at 937-401-9700 or Cincinnati, Ohio at 513-897-8990. As “The Paramedics of Property Damage®,” we are the first responders to your commercial property emergency. Our experienced and highly-trained professionals are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.