In 1911, a workplace fire struck at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in NYC, NY. As a result, roughly 150 employees were found dead. Later, it was discovered that the factory had faulty fire exits and insufficient extinguishing systems.
What this means for businesses today is that adhering to office fire safety guidelines can save hundreds of lives. Having a prevention and escape plan can save your life and your business from an unpredictable fire.
So, let’s go over the importance of fire safety and tips to follow, should disaster ever strike your office.
Why office fire safety is critical
Each year there are about 17,000 office fires in the US. These blazes can leave businesses with property damage, liability issues, and in the most dire cases– employee losses.
Thus, workplace fire safety is essential to ensure your business never has to deal with the consequences of an unexpected spark.
What are the causes of workplace fires?
It’s important to note that you don’t need a flame to start a fire. A spark can ignite from built-up heat near flammable materials. Likewise, faulty electrical cords or poor installation of appliances can result in fires too.
The causes of fires in offices depend on the type of industry. This is because varying industries pose different risks. But, there are general areas where fires tend to happen the most, among all types of businesses.
Where do they happen?
The most fire-prone area in any conventional workplace is the kitchen. This is due to the appliances commonly found in kitchen areas. Some appliances that create fire risks are toasters, microwaves, and ovens.
But, containing fire-prone appliances isn’t the only reason why the kitchen is a common point of origin for office fires. The kitchen is also the place where employees tend to be the most distracted. This is because it’s where they spend their time chatting with coworkers and taking breaks.
So, make sure you pay extra attention to the kitchen area when conducting office fire safety evaluations.
Workplace fire safety tips
Below are a few of the most important fire safety tips in the workplace. Following these tips will help prevent unprecedented flames in your workplace.
Educate your employees
Of all the fire safety steps we’ll cover, educating your employees is at the top of the list. This is because your coworkers are all you have in the event of a fire. Thus, you need to know you can depend on each other when disaster strikes.
Employers have a legal and ethical responsibility to protect employees from work-related catastrophes. So, they should allocate time and resources to carry out proper training.
One aspect of training includes learning how to effectively use a fire extinguisher.
While nearly everyone has seen a fire extinguisher in their life, most people don’t know how to properly use one. Thus, learning the PASS acronym is critical to ensuring office fire safety.
“P” stands for “Pull,” “A” stands for “Aim,” the first “S” stands for “Squeeze,” and the second “S” stands for “Sweep.”
If you need to use an extinguisher, you’ll need to first pull the pin on the fire extinguisher to break the seal. Then, aim its nozzle at the base of the flames and squeeze the handle to release the extinguishing agent. As you spray the flames, make sure to sweep in side-to-side motions until the fire is out.
Mitigate the risks of common culprits
Prevention is key to any fire disaster. Decreasing the likelihood of an unforeseen spark is the best way to prevent a workplace tragedy. By evaluating appliances and machines, you can mitigate the risk of common triggers.
The most common fire culprits in office spaces fall into two categories: Kitchen and Electrical.
A common kitchen culprit is any appliance that generates heat. So, your coffee maker, microwave, toaster, etc., should be kept away from flammable materials.
One of the most important office fire safety rules in the kitchen is to unplug any appliance after using it. This is the only way to make sure there’s no electrical current traveling that could ignite a spark.
Non-kitchen electric appliances and machines can also cause an initial spark. Thus, to avoid electrical fires, check for faulty wiring on computers, fax machines, and copiers.
Also, be careful to not overload wall outlets and power strips with multiple devices. This will ensure there’s enough air circulation to disperse heat.
Follow OSHA guidelines
OSHA is a government agency in the United States. It stands for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. It requires specific and strict safety guidelines for each unique business industry. So, checking the OSHA guidelines for your business is important to keeping everyone safe.
Create a suppression system
Fire safety in the workplace isn’t complete without a fire suppression system. OSHA calls these systems the most reliable for preparing and preventing blazing disasters.
Your suppression system should have exit routes, emergency lights, sprinklers, and smoke alarms.
Proper exit routes
Every workplace must have at least two escape routes that can be used in a fire emergency. These routes must always remain clear of obstructions. Plus, they must also have properly marked signs to comply with office fire safety regulations.
All emergency routes must be well lit so employees can make a fast and safe escape. Exits must have lighting at each door, floor level, staircase, and corridor. There should also be lights next to fire-fighting equipment along the escape route.
Your office fire safety protocol should include an automatic sprinkler system. Sprinkler systems are among the most dependable fire-fighting tools. This is because they can detect a fire and spray water to target the flames and heat.
A smoke alarm going off is the first signal people hear in the event of a fire emergency. Thus, these alarms are the first line of defense in a fire. Office fire safety standards require the regular testing of smoke alarms. Testing confirms that each alarm has battery backup and power supply.
Conduct regular fire drills
Practicing fire drill procedures in the workplace is one of the best tips for office safety. This is because it helps employees familiarize themselves with the evacuation plan. Making your fire evacuation drills mandatory is a critical part of training.
During an emergency, we go into fight or flight mode. In turn, this can make it extremely difficult to think clearly. When panic obstructs rational thinking, we become vulnerable to making poor decisions. This is why it’s so important to regularly practice fire drills. It increases the chances that knowing when and how to react during a fire becomes second nature.
Designate safety roles
Make sure that a few employees are assigned and trained on their specific safety roles. These roles may include the 911 caller, the exit leader, and the fire safety officer to assist in safety training.
The fire warden
The fire warden is the most important role in office fire safety protocol. They’re responsible for planning fire drills, evaluating control measures, assessing fire hazards, and identifying high-risk areas. Depending on how big your workspace is and how many employees you have, you may have more than one fire warden.
The bottom line for office fire safety
Keeping yourself and your employees safe is of the utmost importance in a workplace fire. So, having a fire prevention and escape strategy is key to protecting your office. Follow this guide to help you develop a safety plan that works best for your business.