Prevent fires in the workplace with these life-saving tips
Fire safety is everyone’s responsibility in the workplace. Something as small as a paper fire or an electrical short could quickly turn into a major emergency. If your business is in an area that has experienced unrest in recent months, it’s possible you’re concerned about deliberately set fires and the risk that pose to your building and employees as well.
The financial risk of workplace fires is significant too – the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) estimates fires cost industrial and manufacturing employers over $1 billion in property damages each year.
Education and planning are crucial to preventing fires and keeping your employees and visitors safe in an emergency. Follow these fire safety tips for the workplace as you create or reassess your company’s fire safety plan:
- Prioritize education and training
- Focus on fire prevention
- Understand your equipment
- Have an evacuation plan
Read on to learn more about fire safety tips for the workplace.
Prioritize education and training
Planning ahead is the first step in fire safety. Be sure to tailor your fire safety program to your specific workplace. It’s likely you already have established emergency procedures, but if you need assistance updating protocols or addressing new issues, contact your local fire department for help.
Ensure all employees know where to find safety information, whether it’s posted in a common area or on the intranet. Your workplace fire safety preparation should also include:
- Posting fire escape plans on every level of the building
- Training employees about exit locations, escape routes, meeting places, and fire protection equipment
- Conducting regular emergency drills
Many local emergency departments offer fire safety tips for the workplace and training covering topics like using a fire extinguisher effectively. You can also access fire safety training online through organizations like the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Consider implementing annual educational sessions to refresh current employees on safety practices and include the same information in orientation for new hires.
Emergency planning for employees and visitors with disabilities can sometimes go overlooked in emergency plans. Be mindful of everyone when designing your workplace fire safety procedures and include all employees in regular training and drills.
Focus on fire prevention
When setting up your office space or conducting routine housekeeping, follow these fire safety tips for the workplace and keep an eye out for fire hazards that might otherwise go unnoticed:
- Cords with breaks or frays
- Overloaded power strips
- Materials stored in front of emergency exits or fire extinguishers
- Blocked exits, including windows
- Flammable materials (such as paper, aerosols, and chemicals) stored near heat sources
- Old appliances with spilled food or electrical issues
- Unattended portable heating devices.
Understand your equipment
OSHA requires employers to visually inspect all fire extinguishers once a month and perform an annual maintenance check. Extinguishers must also be placed where employees can quickly and safely access them.
There’s no requirement to train employees on using fire extinguishers, but it’s good practice. When operating a portable fire extinguisher, the U.S. Fire Administration says to remember the word PASS:
- Pull the pin. Hold the extinguisher with the nozzle pointing away from you and release the locking mechanism.
- Aim low. Point the extinguisher at the base of the fire.
- Squeeze the lever slowly and evenly.
- Sweep the nozzle from side-to-side.
Fire alarm warning systems are also standard equipment in most workplaces and are commonly connected to an automated sprinkler system. Check with your local fire marshal if you have questions about requirements in your area. And just in case these systems malfunction, remind employees to speak up right away if they smell something burning or see smoke or flames.
Have an evacuation plan
Even if you implement the right fire safety procedures, there is no way to guarantee a fire won’t still happen. Everyone in your workplace should know what to do in case of an emergency. If a fire occurs:
- Call 911.
- Notify all building occupants of the fire.
- If possible, use the stairs—never the elevator—to calmly leave the building in an orderly fashion. For employees who cannot use the stairs, your safety plan should designate safe spaces or areas of refuge where they can wait for assistance from first responders.
- Make your way to the designated meeting area a safe distance away from the building.
- Conduct a headcount to confirm no one is missing.
Whether large or small, every business or organization should have a robust fire prevention program and emergency procedures in place. For more safety tips for the workplace, visit our blog.