Every year, fires in the workplace cause serious damage and even death. You might think that it will never happen to your business, but you can’t be sure unless you have taken all of the correct precautions. Below we have outlined how to prevent fire hazards in the workplace, but first, let’s take a look at some statistics so you can get an idea of the impact fire has on businesses across the country.
- In 2017 there were 3,400 deaths due to a fire in the US
- According to the NFPA, firefighters respond to a fire every 24 seconds in the U.S.
There are various reasons a fire may break out, however, many of them are preventable. Many of the deaths and issues caused by a fire in the past have been preventable, and this is heartbreaking, but it also means you can learn from past business mistakes.
The Best Ways To Prevent Fire In The Workplace
Here’s a quick rundown of some of the best ways to prevent fires:
- Properly dispose of hazardous waste – oils, chemicals, and other hazardous waste should all be properly disposed of as soon as possible.
- Maintain equipment regularly – everything should be up to code and checked over to a schedule especially if you are in an industrial environment
- Store things safely – chemicals and flammable materials should be stored as safely as possible.
- Keep a clean environment – ensure your team cleans up after themselves and hire a cleaner to ensure your business is clean to a professional standard.
- Take precautionary measures – teach building occupants how to handle a fire extinguisher and go through how you would all react to a fire and exit the building. Practicing this ensures there are no mistakes or problems should the worst happen.
- Make sure your building is secure – implement building security measures such as alarm systems and access control to deter people from committing crimes that could damage your premises, such as arson.
- Have a designated smoking area – a designated smoking area away from the workplace is vital.
- Having accessible equipment – fire equipment such as extinguishers and sprinklers should be easily accessible and in good working condition at all times.
- Have an emergency plan – know who to call, how to stop the fire spreading, etc. Having everything laid out beforehand will make it so much easier.
- Adhere to safety guidelines – know what the safety guidelines are in your area and industry and stick to them.
Causes of Fires in the Workplace
All workplaces are different and you will need to adjust your approach to fire prevention that best suits your business. Read on for some of the most common fire causes and how you can prevent them.
Dust can occur in any place of work but it is especially prevalent when machinery is used to cut wood, plastic, and metal. If there is a build-up of dust and no proper ventilation, explosions and fires can occur in enclosed spaces.
Extraction fans are a must, and equipment and machinery should be kept free of dust and grease too, as they can heat up when the machine is in use. Keeping everything clean and making sure your workplace is well ventilated will protect you from dust-related fires.
If you are not in an industrial environment where you are cutting wood, plastic, or metal, make sure that areas that have a lot of cords or electrical equipment such as server rooms are dust-free.
Faulty Electrical Equipment
One of the most common causes of fire in the workplace is loose cabling and damaged plugs. To prevent this, you should replace faulty equipment ASAP. Equipment should be regularly tested by an expert to ensure it is compliant and you should have someone who is certified come in and ensure that you are not putting your employees in danger with faulty electrical equipment.
Flammable Liquids And Vapors
Large amounts of flammable liquid can ignite in a millisecond if they come in contact with a single spark. Flammable liquids and solvents must be properly sealed and stored.
If a flammable liquid is spilled it must be cleaned up right away using the proper cleaning solutions and equipment.
In addition to that, make sure you have safety signs placed in the areas where these liquids are stored and that your team has received safety training so that they know what and what not to do when they are near these chemicals.
Objects That Generate Heat
The heat generated from machinery can be a threat to the workplace, especially if you have combustible materials nearby. It may seem obvious but sometimes workers are in a hurry and leave combustible materials near machinery that gets hot.
Machinery must never be left running or unattended when not in use- when leaving work for the day, ensure that everything is switched off and cooled down before you clock out.
Untested Fire Alarms
You should have a schedule in place to have a professional come out and test your fire alarms regularly to ensure that they are all in full working order at all times.
Something as simple as an untested fire alarm could be the reason that your business goes up in flames even if the fire starts out small.
Blocked Fire Exits
Your business should be free from clutter and your fire exits absolutely need to be accessed easily. If your fire exits are blocked, this is not only a common fire code violation but it obviously also prevents your employees from being able to escape the building in the case of a fire.
(Recommended Read: The Most Common Fire Code Violations)
It may not seem like a big deal to set some delivery boxes by the fire exit door until you are able to take them out to the dumpster, but this seemingly minor thing could be fatal to those who are in the building.
Overloading Power Sockets
This one is easily avoided but is still one of the most common causes of fires. Overloading power sockets is always a bad idea. Keeping what is plugged into a minimum will avoid overloading and overheating of your power sockets.
We highly suggest using approved power strips if you have a lot of machinery or devices that need to be plugged in. These help control the amount of electricity emitted from the power socket and are necessary when it comes to preventing fires.
Storage Of Waste And Combustible Material
Paper, cardboard, and other combustible materials can cause a problem in all kinds of work environments – offices especially.
These materials are the perfect fuel for a fire to spread quickly so you should avoid keeping combustible materials on-site as best you possibly can.
Do not let paper and cardboard pile up in any area and have appropriate recycling containers that are far away from any heat or fire sources in your building.
Label these containers clearly and make sure no one is using them to dispose of things like cigarettes.
If you do have to keep a lot of paper and cardboard on hand for fulfillment purposes, make sure they are in an area where a fire is unlikely to start.
Leaving Fire Doors Open
It is very likely that your business has fire doors somewhere on the premises. fire doors are often left open because people want to move things in and out of the building quickly but this renders the doors absolutely pointless if a fire breaks out.
Fire doors are specially designed to prevent fires from spreading and keep the building occupants safe while exiting the building. If these doors are left open, the fire will spread quicker than if they were closed and the risk of someone getting severely injured increases.
It is important that your employees can quickly tell the difference between your fire doors and fire exits. Your fire exits should already be properly labeled but your fire doors might not be. We highly suggest putting up a sign that says something along the lines of, “Fire Door: Leave Closed At All Times.”
You can’t stop everybody in your office from smoking, but cigarettes that have not been disposed of properly are a leading cause of fires around the world. Smoking near flammable materials is especially dangerous.
Ensure a designated smoking area away from the main building so that you don’t have to worry about a stray cigarette setting something on fire.
Make this a clear rule that everybody sticks to and reiterate the importance of extinguishing cigarettes completely before tossing them out.
Worried about fire hazards in your building? The first step to making your building safer is putting policies in place that prevent fires before they happen. The second step is to ensure that your fire alarm system is up to date and functioning correctly. Learn more about fire alarm system upgrades, installation, and maintenance from the experts at TED Systems.