Fire Safety Should Be a Priority for Your Building’s Occupants
Of all the potential disasters that can strike a business, fire has the potential to be the most destructive. A catastrophic fire can wipe out entire buildings and their contents, destroying important records, equipment, stock and raw materials. Fires and explosions accounted for 3 percent of all workplace-related deaths in 2011 and 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Fire safety is a critical component of facilities management that should be a top priority, not only for the material components of the building but for the people who work there.
Some workplaces, by their nature, are more prone to fire than others. Manufacturing or service facilities that frequently use open flame, volatile materials or similar fire dangers require considerable effort for fire safety. However, even an office or retail establishment can be at risk of fire from electrical malfunctions, HVAC or gas-line problems, arson or simple error. Fire safety is especially important in multi-story buildings where occupants could be trapped on floors above the source of the fire.
Fire Safety Processes
You should consult with your local services contractor, fire safety board, or appropriate state agency for assistance with fire safety planning and compliance with fire regulations. A basic fire safety program will include the following:
- Evacuation plan: Each building should have a fire safety evacuation plan that explains what to do in case of fire. Diagrams of exit routes should be posted where they can be seen and studied. Building occupants should know their closest exit, but should also be aware of several alternates. Exit pathways and doors should be kept clear of obstructions, and exit doors should be left unlocked. Lighted exit signs should be placed in appropriate areas. Conduct fire drills if necessary, but at least make sure employees receive training in fire safety and emergency evacuation procedures.
- Fire extinguishers: Fully charged and ready fire extinguishers should be kept available in accordance with local fire safety codes and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations. Extinguishers should be visible and accessible, and employees should receive training on how to operate them. Fire extinguishers should be rated according to OSHA requirements and the type of fires most likely to occur within the area. Class A extinguishers are effective against common materials such as wood, paper and cloth. Class B extinguishers are used on flammable liquids such as gasoline, paints or solvents. Class C extinguishers are used against electrical fires.
- Fire alarms: Local, state and federal regulations will require the installation of fire alarms and smoke detectors; consult with fire safety representatives for specifics. In general, there should be several smoke detectors throughout the building. Fire alarm and fire suppression systems must be regularly inspected and kept functional at all times. Visual alarms such as flashing lights must be installed for persons with hearing difficulties or for employees working in noisy environments. Alarms must be clear, audible and immediately identifiable as an emergency signal.
- Fire safety training: Employees should receive regular training on fire safety. This should include fire safety processes, emergency procedures and exit plans. Duties should be assigned to managers or other individuals who will make sure proper procedures are followed in case of a fire, and who will maintain accountability for all assigned employees in case of an emergency.
- Hazard inspections: Regular inspections should be conducted to ensure employee areas, stock rooms, break rooms, and even infrequently accessed areas of the building are free from fire hazards. Typical hazards to watch for include overloaded electrical outlets, improperly stored flammable materials, or blocked or locked exits. Any hazards that are identified should be removed or corrected immediately.
Our goal is to help educate our customers about Plumbing, HVACR, Fire Protection and Alarm Systems in Mechanical, Commercial and Residential settings. For more information on fire safety, workplace fire plans and fire safety equipment, and to view projects we’ve worked on, visit our website!