Fire prevention in the workplace is an easy topic to set aside for another day. After all, most days it can seem like a big if. However, without adequate planning, training, and practice, that IF can quickly turn into a disastrous event — one that not only risks the lives of your employees but also the future of your business.
To limit liability, ensure employee safety, and minimize potential property damage, follow these tips for fire prevention in the workplace and put them into practice as soon as possible. If the worst does happen, you’ll be glad you did.
Best Tips for Fire Prevention in the Workplace
The best way to stop fire from threatening your workplace and employees is to prevent the initial spark from igniting in the first place. There are several areas around your building you should check for fire safety.
Fire Prevention in the Kitchen Area
The most common offender for fire-related incidents in the workplace is the kitchen or cooking area of your workplace. It holds most of the appliances in your office and is also where employees’ attention is most likely to stray.
- Unplug all appliances after use. Yes, everything. It’s the only way to be sure no electric current can travel or cause unwanted sparks. Make it the habit of all your employees to unplug items before leaving the cooking area.
- Keep any appliance that generates heat away from items or materials which could overheat or catch fire. This could include toasters, ovens, electric kettles, and space heaters.
- Store a fire extinguisher somewhere accessible in the kitchen area and make sure all employees know how to use it.
Fire Prevention for the Office
Other electric appliances and machines around your workplace could easily become fire hazards. Check around your office for common fire traps and follow these tips for fire prevention in the workplace.
- Keep computers, monitors, copiers, fax machines, projectors, and paper shredders up-to-date, and replace old or damaged wiring immediately.
- Be conservative with your use of power strips and be careful not to overload them.
- If your office uses space heaters or other energy-heavy appliances, never plug them into power strips. They should only ever be connected to grounded outlets, ideally ones not shared with other plugs.
How to Prepare for Fire Emergencies in the Workplace
If a fire starts, you may be left with minutes or less to formulate a plan and get out safely. If you can implement a fire prevention strategy and have an emergency plan in place, those minutes can be used to get people to safety and stop a disaster from happening.
Fire Prevention in the Workplace Using Smoke Alarms
Smoke alarms are the first line of defense in an emergency. Without properly functioning alarms, by the time employees are aware of a flame, it could already have spread and become dangerous.
Preventative maintenance, through inspections, testing, and maintenance, is essential. In addition to your smoke alarms, you’ll want to establish a preventative maintenance program that covers all aspects of your fire suppression system, and that incorporates proper documentation according to your industry’s safety requirements.
- Have an adequate number of smoke alarms present throughout the workplace and make sure they have power supply and battery back-up.
- Test all smoke alarms monthly.
- Test all sprinklers and other suppression systems regularly as well.
- Pair your inspection, testing, and maintenance program with proper documentation, so you always know what’s been tested, and what may still need maintenance.
Creating an Evacuation Plan
An evacuation plan can help direct employees where to go in an emergency. Rather than letting fear and chaos take over, establish a clear plan now and make sure your employees are trained in how to implement it. The best fire prevention in the workplace is in the planning, with the hope that you’ll never have to use it in a real situation.
- Design your evacuation plan with multiple routes. This will ensure employees have several possible exits in case part of the building is blocked or inaccessible.
- Choose a spot a safe distance from the building where evacuating employees can gather. Designate one employee in a leadership role to direct people to that location and take an accurate count once all are assembled.
- Have a plan that works for all employees, regardless of age, sex, physical or mental ability.
- Keep an evacuation route map with all exits posted in a visible location in the workplace. Make sure it is clear and easy to read.
- Keep all emergency numbers handy. You’ll need employees to be able to access them quickly in an emergency. Be sure to check them often to make sure the information is still accurate.
How to Practice Fire Prevention in the Workplace
The best way for employees to practice fire prevention in the workplace is to familiarize themselves with the evacuation plan through regular drills.
- Assign roles to specific employees to carry out an effective evacuation: who will call the fire department, who will stay behind to direct employees to exits, and make sure everyone gets out safely, who will coordinate at evacuation point, etc.
- Have one person in a leadership position overseeing that all employees are properly trained on how to carry out their roles. This could be someone working in HR, a manager, or a knowledgeable assistant tasked with fire prevention updates and drills.
- Keep all hallways and doorways clear of furniture and personal belongings. Make it a practice that no items should block fire exits at any time — even temporarily.
Understand that if an emergency does arise, people will be under stress and less likely to think and behave rationally. Practicing an evacuation plan and having a solid understanding of how to behave in an emergency will provide your employees with invaluable information and skills — which could save their lives.
Just a little bit of office fire safety training can go a long way. If it’s been a while since your team has had any kind of fire safety training, it might be time for a comprehensive fire extinguisher training course. For more information on either, contact the team at Vanguard Fire & Security.