Fire Safety at Work

Fires can happen anywhere. It is important to acknowledge that, and use that knowledge to your advantage while at work. The basics to fire are simple: fire develops when three elements create a chain reaction. These elements are oxygen, fuel, and an ignition source. Fuel can be a solid (paper, wood, towels), liquid (solvents, gasoline, oil), or gas (flammable gases and vapors). The greater the concentration of oxygen during a fire, the brighter the blaze and the more quickly it burns. An ignition source could be anything, such as a spark, flame, or source of heat that could cause vaporization. What is important to know, initially, is that if you have the ability to remove any of these elements, the fire should go out.

Electrical Fires

Electrical fires can be common in the workplace. They are a major cause of workplace fires, due to the misuse of electrical equipment or electrical system failure. Electrical fires can be caused by many things:

  • Overloaded fuses, circuits, motors, or outlets
  • Wiring with frayed or worn insulation
  • Loose ground connections
  • Lights or machinery in contact with combustible materials
  • Defective power tools that spark

If you have an electrical fire, it is important to note a few things:

  • Never touch the burning object or person
  • If possible, turn off the power to the object
  • Never use water to extinguish an electrical fire, use carbon dioxide or multipurpose ABC fire extinguisher
  • Activate your facility fire response system

Tips for Employees

Watch for fire hazards; if you can recognize them, you may be able to prevent a fire from occurring. Knowing your company's safety procedures and keeping alert during potentially dangerous situations can also help to prevent a fire in the workplace. Some fire hazards may include:

  • Unprotected or faulty equipment
  • Unsafe storage of combustible materials
  • Inadequate ventilation
  • Failure to follow established safety guidelines
  • Inattention
  • Human Error
  • Poor housekeeping
  • Arson

To prevent fires in your workplace:

  • Keep equipment and machinery clean and in good operating condition
  • Make sure that all electrical equipment is protected
  • Never overload circuits
  • Store flammable/combustible materials in appropriate containers, away from heat sources
  • Keep work areas clean and free of debris
  • Dispose of flammables according to established safety guidelines
  • Never leave open flames unattended
  • Use caution when operating welding and other spark-producing equipment
  • Clean (if appropriate) and report all spills
  • Report suspicious persons to security or a manager
  • Keep fire exits/ escape routes clear and well-marked
  • Know where alarm boxes and fire extinguishers are located

Beyond this, it is also very important to have an evacuation plan and consistently practice it. The evacuation should be practiced bi-annually, with your employees, and even customers. If you would like to make the evacuation more believable, create simulated obstacles, so that guests and employees have to find a different way out of your facility.

For more information about Fire Safety in the workplace, contact the Fire and Life Safety Educator, Tobey Allen at 757-382-6566.