Workplace fire prevention and survival tips

Author: D16 March 13, 2014

Workplace fire prevention is an absolute must for any business.

A fire in the workplace can be devastating, resulting in the loss of life, injuries, the loss of jobs and millions of dollars in property damage. But you can improve your odds of avoiding and surviving a fire through diligent planning, instructing and training.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), more than 200 fires happen in U.S. workplaces each year, 200 workers die each year in workplace fires, 5,000 workers are injured each year in workplace fires and workplace fires cause more than $2.3 billion in property damage. In some situations, companies can’t even afford to rebuild following a fire.

Workplace fire prevention might be the most important investment you place in your company. Take a look at these tips for prevention and survival for your employees:

1)      Tips to prevent fires

Everyone in your workplace should be trained on workplace fire prevention and should consider it his or her responsibility to take part in fire prevention.

Here are some easy tips to consider:

— BE A GOOD HOUSEKEEPER: Clutter provides fuel for fires and can prevent access to exits and emergency equipment. Make sure oily rags are kept in a covered metal container and trash needs to be tossed regularly. Use and store chemicals safely based on the labels. Also, don’t forget to provide adequate ventilation when you use or store substances.

— BE OBSERVANT: Blocked sprinklers, extinguishers or emergency exits should always be clear. Often, stacked materials can become a problem that nobody notices. Also, be aware of building security to prevent arson. It’s important to lock up and report suspicious individuals.

— ELECTRICAL PROBLEMS: Watch out for electrical hazards. Faulty wiring and malfunctioning electrical equipment cause many fires and should be reported to a trained authority. Maintain free access to electrical control panels.

— MAINTENANCE: Overheating and friction sparks are often the result of machines that don’t get regular maintenance. Make sure the tools you use don’t cause sparks and that static electricity is controlled in potentially explosive atmospheres.

— BE SMART: Smoke only in designated areas. Extinguish smoking materials safely. Make sure emergency telephone numbers and the company address are clearly posted by telephones in the work place.

2)      What happens if a fire strikes?

So, you’ve been diligent in your fire prevention plan, but a fire still struck. Now what?

—    HAVE A FIRE ESCAPE PLAN: Your company should have emergency procedures in place, and everyone should know them. Also, designate multiple people who are trained to oversee an evacuation. These emergency coordinators can make sure things proceed in an orderly fashion and that the building is being completely evacuated. As for the overall plan, the keys are: Knowing the exits, knowing what the alarms signal and having a designated meeting place outside the building.

—    ALARMS: Make sure the company has many smoke alarms and a sprinkler system. Also, make sure employees know where the fire alarms are and how to work them to alert everyone.

—    PHONE HELP: Your workers should know who to call. Place sheets with emergency contact numbers near phones, or designated emergency phones, throughout your company. If workers don’t have time to stop and call before evacuating, your emergency coordinators should know emergency numbers and use cell phones to call once outside the building.

—    FIRE EXTINGUISHERS: It’s a good idea to train people to use fire extinguishers to put out small fires. Make sure fire extinguishers are up to date and placed in easily accessible areas. However, make sure there is an easy exit should the fire not be extinguished.

—    PRACTICE: Fire drills should be conducted regularly, twice a year or more, and should be taken seriously. Your designated emergency coordinators should not allow colleagues to slack during a drill.

A workplace fire can be disastrous, from injury to loss of life to financially. However, by being vigilant in fire prevention, your company will vastly improve its chances to avoid and fight the terrible damage a fire can cause.

Don’t get caught off guard, take these tips and put them into action immediately. Fire prevention and survival is not about luck, it’s about planning and continual oversight.

And, of course, if the unfortunate happens, know that Swartz Contracting and Emergency Services will help your business repair the damages immediately. We’re available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Call us today at 419-331-1024 or 800-462-1024.

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Sources: Swartz Contracting and Emergency Services, www.safetyxchange.org