Fire safety is taught and practiced from the earliest days of kindergarten—we all remember “Stop, Drop, and Roll”—but preparedness training should never end. Workplace fires pose a risk across all industries, making fire safety training and policies an essential part of keeping employees, customers, and the surrounding community safe.
According to OSHA,1 workplace fires and explosions kill 200 and injure more than 5,000 workers each year, costing businesses more than $2.3 billion in property damage. Explosions and fires account for 3 percent of workplace injuries and have the highest casualty rate of all probable workplace accidents. Many unexpected explosions and fires are due to faulty gas lines, poor pipefitting, improperly stored combustible materials, or open flames.
Taking preventative steps, implementing training, and drilling simulation exercises can lower risk and prepare employees in case a fire ever does break out in the workplace.
According to Safety Services Company,2 only 15 percent of fires are a result of circumstances outside of human control. Most workplace fires can be prevented, and there are preventative steps every organization can take to mitigate the risk.
Begin by performing a workplace hazard assessment. Walk through the building or work environment, document any fire hazards, and make sure there is full accessibility to things such as electrical control panels, emergency exits, firefighting equipment, and sprinklers. Test smoke alarms and check fire extinguishers for expiration dates.
Because electricity accounts for 39 percent of workplace fires, keep a close eye out for any electrical hazards, such as faulty wiring and malfunctioning electrical equipment. Make sure electrical cords are in good condition and power outlets are not overloaded. Replace anything that appears overheated, smells strange or has frayed or exposed wires.
If your organization uses chemicals or other hazardous materials, read labels to ensure you are storing and disposing of them properly in appropriate containers with adequate ventilation. Fire hazards such as oily rags should be discarded in a covered metal container and emptied on a regular basis. Chemicals should be handled with proper protective equipment and separated from flammable materials.
Walking through your building and pinpointing possible fire hazards allows you to fix issues before they become problems. Once hazards are identified, taking action to quickly fix them and address safety processes will go a long way toward reducing the likelihood of a fire.