Although most areas of the country have excellent fire departments, fires are still responsible for huge losses of jobs and lives. The most recent National Fire Defense Record (NFPA) record released in 2015 stated that there were more than 3000 civilian deaths and more than 15,000 fire injuries that took place in the United States. The costs associated with fires are more than $14.3 billion in home damage alone. The losses caused by fire affect not only personal homes and property, but also have an effect on work environments and businesses.
And while fire affects many businesses, it has a substantial impact on both small and medium-sized businesses who have fewer financial resources. These businesses are usually housed in a single location and, in the case of a fire, may not be able to continue their work. The key to preventing a loss of business is prevention and it’s every business’s job to keep the workplace safe from any potential fire threats. Fortunately, many of the fires that occur today are preventable.
These are just a few of the easy and effective ways to keep your workplace and your workers safe:
1. Keep the Office Clean
Having standards for the state of the workplace is an important step to prevent fire. Make sure to keep work spaces neat as any piles of waste and clutter are easy kindling for a growing fire. Make it a regular habit to get rid of any flammable materials such as wood and cardboard. Worker safety is a key element of prevention here so promote clean habits in the entire office. Make sure also to keep any waste baskets and dumpsters away from areas of heat.
It’s a common habit to destroy waste in an open pit or barrel, thinking that this is a safe way to get rid of waste. However, this is not only a fire hazard, but also illegal in most states. Instead of burning any trash, follow state and government guidelines to get rid of combustible waste safely. Look up the guidelines in the area and keep them posted in the workplace to inform all employees.
2. Watch for Potential Hazards
Potential fire spots are areas to watch out for in the office. There are a few key areas, for example, in the workplace which are specifically prone to fire risks. It’s important to keep an eye on them to prevent problems. For example, the kitchen is the most common place to experience a workplace fire. Coffee makers that have been left on can trigger a fire. Make sure to ask employees to turn off any appliances in the company kitchen before leaving the area. Also keep any flammable items away from appliances to decrease the fire risk.
3. Watch out for Faulty Wiring
Faulty electrical wiring is one of the leading violations according to the Occupational Security and Health Administration (OSHA) in 2016. Make sure that any cables and wires in use are in good condition with no exposed wires. It’s also important to use the appropriate power cable for the work. Substituting cords can be tempting in a pinch but can increase risk.
When using an electrical outlet, prevent any dual adaptor links. Instead, use a power strip with a fuse. Make sure to schedule regular electrical repair and maintenance to prevent any potential hazards. Additionally, it’s important for businesses to test any safety and security buttons roughly every three months. Keep in mind that electrical safety isn’t just based on the electrical system. Any water leaks in the building can also lead to blown circuits, fire, and personal harm. Water is a good conductor of electrical energy and can electrocute anyone in contact. Make sure that there are no water leaks in the workplace.
4. Use and Store Chemicals Securely
Most chemical cleaners and other materials are flammable. Make sure to read the label and security sheet on each container to determine if it is flammable and how best to use the product safely. All chemicals should be labelled correctly and stored based on the instructions. The chemicals should also be kept in secured containers when they are not in sure. Advise employees to only use their chemicals for their intended purpose. For example, ethyl alcohol should not be used to clean the floor or as a hand sanitizer. Provide employees with the appropriate equipment such as gloves and masks as well as any tools for dealing with hazardous chemicals. Clean up any chemical spills promptly and according to directions.
5. Screen Out Risky Workers
Although it’s a good idea to hang “no smoking” signs to let your employees know that smoking is not permitted and carry out regular fire drills, sometimes these steps aren’t enough to make your work environment safe from fire hazards. Each company takes a different approach to maximize workers safety and the safety of the environment. Industrial companies, for example, are starting to screen out potentially dangerous workers in their goal to create a safe and reliable work environment.
In the past few years, there has been a rise in pre-employment alcohol and drug tests. Many of these screening kits are easy for employers to use with potential employees. Make sure to use a kit that has been FDA-approved. These kits are a good way to determine if an employee engages in any risky behaviors which could increase the company’s risk of an accident or fire.
6. Prepare for Emergency Situations
Although using the steps above to prevent a fire is key, some accidents can still occur. It’s important to be prepared in the case of an emergency situation. Conduct regular fire drills a few times a year and also make sure to supply employees with safety training according to both federal and state standards. Make sure to have an assigned meeting point for all employees to account for each person after the drill.
Employee training is just one step of this process though. Make sure that emergency phone numbers and any firefighting equipment are accessible and understood by employees. Keep the fire extinguishers up to date and in good working condition. Make sure that each employee understands the building’s evacuation strategy from their initial start at the company. A public address system is also a good idea and can be used to inform personnel in case of an emergency. The emergency exits should be marked and easy to reach. Finally, local fire departments are great resources for local businesses. They can provide valuable information on how to react in a fire and also if the building has done an adequate job of preparing for a fire.
Workplace fire accidents are known for their catastrophic loss of human life as well as equipment and materials. When it comes to safety and security, prevention is the key. From focusing on simple steps like cleaning to building an evacuation plan, these basic safety tips will help to keep your workplace security. Keeping workers safe is an important part of managing risk to keep your Worker’s Compensation insurance premiums low. If you need help evaluating your risk profile be sure to reach out to us.