Fires in the workplace are never an expected event, but a facility needs to be prepared in case of one. An uncontrolled fire can result in fatalities, injuries, and serious damage. For worker’s safety, it is wise to take preventative measures while you can, rather than being unprepared and have a fire result in a ton of damages and injuries.
Here are four steps a facility or safety manager should complete to prevent fires and prepare employees:
1. Assess hazards – Every facility has a list of common hazards including electrical systems, flammable solvents, combustibles, etc. It is important to walk around your facility and identify specific hazards in the workplace. Once the hazards have been identified, ensure workers are properly trained how to handle them, and that the hazards are properly labeled.
2. Have a fire prevention plan – OSHA has an important focus on fire safety and prevention, with a series of regulations and requirements. This plan should be given to all employees, reviewed with new hires, and be refreshed with periodic training. A crucial component of a comprehensive fire prevention plan is accessibility; don’t use overly complicated or terms in the plan and there is a physical and digital copy available to employees. The regulations for compliance are found under section 1910.39.
3. Be visual – In the case of emergency, often times people panic. Emergency evacuation routes are forgotten, and procedures can slip the mind. Even with comprehensive and ongoing training, it is just the nature of emergencies. Using wall signs, floor labels and floor markings remind workers where important equipment is and how to safely exit the building. Use a fire alarm pull station wall marking to ensure someone can easily spot the alarm, and that nothing or no one blocks it. Lay down glow-in-the-dark arrows to help direct employees along a safe route.
4. Prepare for emergency responders – Be sure to contact emergency responders in any case the fire alarm goes off; it is better to be safe than sorry. When responders arrive to the facility, the easier it is for them to work the faster they can handle the situation. For example, ensure the evacuation path leads employees away from entrances and out of the way where responders will be working; or consider putting a clearly visible sign marking where the fire hose connection is.
Fires can be scary, but instilling confidence into your workers can keep everyone calm and safe in the case of an emergency. For more information regarding fire safety practices and prevention tips, check out the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1 Fire Code and the International Fire Code.