Workplace fires are a relatively frequent occurrence. It is estimated that 22,200 workplace fires occurred between 2013 and 2014, and that 75% of these fires were accidental. Many of these fires could have been prevented by performing fire safety assessments.
There are many measures employers can use to assess the fire safety of their workplace. Here are 10 of them:
Identifying fire hazards.
In order to form, fires need three basic things: fuel, oxygen, and ignition. Each of these things could be a potential fire hazard and should be identified as such during safety assessments.
However, these items are rarely considered fire hazards in isolation. They only become hazards when you put two or more of them together.
For example, dust can be considered a fire hazard under the right circumstances. Dust that accumulates in office spaces over time and settles behind machines could be ignited by electrical sparks and cause a fire. In this scenario, dust was the fuel, while the machine or electrical outlet provided the ignition
Identifying employees at risk.
Working in certain areas of a workplace can be more dangerous than others. Some employees may be exposed to fire hazards far more frequently, so it’s important to identify these individuals and ask them to exercise caution in the areas they work in.
Employees who are unaware that they are working in potentially dangerous conditions may be less cautious than they need to be, especially if they’re emulating their co-workers who work in less dangerous settings.
Inspecting fire extinguishers.
Employees that find themselves in fire situations where they have to battle a fire are going to rely on the nearest fire extinguisher. When used effectively, a fire extinguisher can contain and put out a fire in seconds.
However, fire extinguishers do require regular inspections and maintenance to ensure they are in working order in the event of an emergency. Fire extinguishers should be visually inspected once a month, and undergo maintenance inspections once a year.
Visual inspections include looking for corrosion, dents, or leakage. They also include checking the pressure gauge reading. Annual maintenance inspections are carried out by qualified companies that provide fire protection services.
Fire extinguishers also require internal maintenance once every 5 years or so. This maintenance includes discharging the extinguisher, and checking its moving parts prior to refilling the tank.
Inspecting smoke detectors and fire alarms.
Smoke detectors and fire alarms are able to swifty detect and alert employees of any fires that occur in the workplace. Most modern smoke detectors and fire alarms are connected to each other, so a fire in one room will usually activate the fire alarms in multiple rooms.
Detectors and alarms are essential fire safety solutions found in the workplace, so it’s important to check that they’re functioning and are connected to the fire detection system.
Many larger businesses use third party fire protection services to perform regular maintenance on their workplace smoke detectors and fire alarms
Checking electrical equipment.
Electrical equipment is often the cause of fires in the workplace. Old wires with frayed ends and faulty electrical equipment are common fire hazards. However, such hazards can be easy to overlook if you’re not paying attention.
Electrical equipment should be inspected every month to check for signs of wear and tear or improper installations which could create fires.
Checking evacuation routes.
Employees should be familiar with the proper evacuation procedures to follow in the event of a fire. The building’s fire exits have to be clearly marked so that employees have an easy time locating them. The routes to these fire exits should also be kept clear to make it easier for people to get to them.
Make sure your fire exits are unlocked and accessible in the event of an emergency, and that staff are aware of the assembly points they need to get to after evacuating the premises. Any objects that block or slow down access to these exits could be putting employees in danger, and must be removed.
Undergoing fire safety awareness training.
Putting your staff through fire safety awareness training is a great way to get them acquainted with fire safety. Fire safety training will familiarize them with spotting fire hazards, dealing with actual fires, and learning how to help others in a fire situation.
Given that the vast majority of fires are accidental, it may be worth educating your employees so they remain vigilant, and work to avoid careless mistakes.
Preparing emergency plans.
An easy-to-follow emergency plan could be useful for teaching your employees how to react in an emergency fire situation.
A well prepared emergency plan can be an effective fire safety solution for any workplace. These emergency plans should teach employees the right steps to take in a variety of fire scenarios, so that they can adjust their evacuation strategy accordingly.
These emergency plans should be easy to share so that new employees can familiarize themselves with emergency procedures immediately, instead of having to wait for safety awareness training sessions in the future.
Using a reliable fire protection service.
If you’re unable to keep up with the fire safety of your workplace on your own, it may be worth hiring a fire protection company to do the safety checks and maintenance for you. This could be useful in large workplaces where the safety protocols across different areas need to be streamlined.
These companies can perform a variety of fire safety duties for you, and ensure that your office is kept safe from fires without requiring your constant involvement.
Staying up to date with fire safety.
The aforementioned measures can help reduce the frequency of fires and stop the spread of fires that do occur. However, the most important measure is to keep up with fire safety, as it is an on-going process.
Keep looking out for potential fire hazards in your workplace, and encouraging your employees to do the same. Spend time revising your emergency plans and evacuation strategies so that they’re replaced by more effective ones.
The fire safety of your workplace depends on you and the resources you’re willing to contribute to ensure the long-term safety of your workplace and its employees.
Australasian Mine Safety Journal
May 1, 2020