Most of us have at least a rudimentary understanding of what to do if we find ourselves face-to-face with a flame in our daily lives. At least, we assume we do. So we run for the fire extinguisher, right?
The fact is, depending on the setting, the intensity of the fire, and its source, the proper method for handling a fire is different. At what point do you call emergency services? When do you pull the fire alarm? Should you use the fire extinguisher? Is there a fire suppression system? Is it working? Do you need to disable any equipment?
A well-laid fire safety plan, along with proper and frequent training, can give your workers the answers to these important questions before an emergency where their judgment could be clouded.
Fire preparedness is an important topic and falls under the responsibility of the employer. According to OSHA 29 CFR 1910.38, your Emergency Action Plan must give your employees designated actions to follow if a fire breaks out.
These actions and general guidance for fire prevention will vary widely depending on the industry and workplace area. After all, the challenges a kitchen faces to manage grease fires are far removed from safety precautions taken in an office.
Workplace Fire Safety for Offices
Offices are typically thought of as relatively risk-free workplaces. However, offices are full of electronics, power cables, equipment, and kitchen appliances that can cause a fire seemingly out of the blue.
Office Fire Prevention
In your workplace, make a safety plan to regularly ensure that:
- The wiring and condition of computers, copiers, paper shredders, power cables, and other electronic devices are in good working order. If any damaged wiring or electrical components are found, take them out of service and replace them immediately.
- Power strips, extension cables, and outlets are in good working order and not overloaded.
- Space heaters, large printers, or other energy-heavy equipment are plugged directly into a grounded wall outlet.
- Office spaces are free of clutter for easy evacuation and avoid paper, fabric, or other flammable materials coming in close contact with electrical outlets and cables.
- Kitchen appliances are regularly cleaned and unplugged when not in use.
- Store kitchen rags, paper towels, and other flammable materials away from stoves, toasters, ovens, or other heat-generating devices.
- Test and maintain smoke alarms, sprinkler systems, and fire suppression systems regularly and document the results. Perform maintenance immediately if needed.
Fire Safety for Construction Sites
A fire prevention plan for construction sites should be thorough and detailed. After all, a typical worksite will have on-the-job hazards like flammable chemicals, electrical wiring, and welding torches and sometimes overlooked risks like heaters or cigarettes from smoke breaks.
Construction Site Fire Prevention
Your construction site fire prevention protocols should include essential guidance, such as:
- Good housekeeping practices to keep flammable chemicals and materials away from ignition sources.
- Combustible waste, like rags soaked in flammable chemicals, should be disposed of in proper metal bins
- Stacked building materials and supplies should be stored so that they do not impede the effectiveness of any installed sprinkler or fire suppression systems.
- All flammable chemicals, paints, and materials should be stored and labeled away from any risk of ignition.
- All electrical wiring, temporary or permanent, should be kept in good working order without fraying or cracks. Workers should take care to minimize load on circuits as well.
- Portable heaters should be kept away from flammable materials or sides of worker tents. To avoid ignition from tipping the heater over, they should also be appropriately guarded and secured,
- Smoking should be kept in designated areas with smoke butts managed in specially-designed receptacles.
Fire Prevention in Manufacturing and Warehouses
Manufacturing and warehouse guidance varies widely depending on the types of products you store or manufacture. After all, a facility that produces baked goods would have different concerns than manufacturing or storing flammable chemical plants.
With that thought in mind, the first step to fire prevention in this industry is to evaluate your unique needs and circumstances. If you work with dangerous or flammable chemicals, you should inform the local fire department and collaborate with them to develop your fire safety plan.
Beyond these special requirements, there are still plenty of important protocols to implement to keep your workers safe from a fire igniting in their workplace. In fact, in warehouses and manufacturing facilities, most fires are caused by electrical mishaps, hot engines from major equipment, chemical reactions, or arson.
To keep your facility safe, your fire prevention plans should include:
- A regular check of facility security procedures to prevent intentional fires from petty crime.
- Ensure that flammable materials are stored in proper containers, away from ignition sources.
- Check all wiring, circuit breakers, and transformers for overloads, faulty wires, or equipment.
- Ensure that all smoke detectors and fire suppression devices are in good working order
- Keep fire extinguishers visible and in easy to access areas. Ensure that you have the proper fire extinguisher types for each facility area’s risk. For example, you would want to make sure that the hazardous chemicals keep an extinguisher designed for chemical fires.
- Ensure that exit signs and evacuation lights properly illuminate and are easily visible.
- Make sure that all discarded trash and flammable items are not blocking exits and are correctly disposed of away from ignition sources.
How to Develop a Fire Safety Plan for Work
Your fire safety plan, just like any safety regulation at work, should be a living document. However, even if you have a plan in place, your organization should regularly revisit your safety protocols to make sure they are still relevant and consider any changes in workspace, products, or other factors.
As you develop your safety plan, it’s best to collaborate with local fire officials and check OSHA’s guidance on Fire Safety in 29 CFR Subpart E – Exit Routes and Emergency Planning. Depending on your industry and materials present, you may also find relevant fire safety information in:
OSHA 29 CFR 1910 – General Industry
- Subpart G – Occupational Health and Environmental Control
- Subpart H – Hazardous Materials
- Subpart L – Fire Protection
- Subpart N – Materials Handling and Storage
- Subpart Q – Welding, Cutting and Brazing
- Subpart R – Special Industries
- Subpart Z – Toxic and Hazardous Substances
OSHA 29 CFR 1926 – Construction
- Subpart C – General Safety and Health Provisions
- Subpart F – Fire Protection and Prevention
- Subpart H – Materials Handling, Storage, Use, and Disposal
- Subpart J – Welding and Cutting
- Subpart K – Electrical
- Subpart R
- Subpart S
- Subpart T
Every facility or workplace’s fire safety plan should be unique to that facility. It should be detailed enough to cover critical information during a fire emergency, yet simple enough that your workers will be able to recall what to do in a crisis. Most plans will cover:
- Maps and evacuation routes, which are also posted clearly throughout the facility, that include meetup points for personnel from each area
- Map of building layout that shows each fire exit clearly
- Locations of critical emergency equipment including fire extinguishers, fire alarm levers, and first aid kits
- Locations of main electrical and water controls for the facility
- Scheduled frequency of facility-wide fire drills
- Regular training and refresher training on fire emergency protocols and fire extinguisher use for all employees
- Clear guidance on what to do when fires break out, even if they are small
- Clear advice on who to contact in the event of a fire emergency and the roles each employee will play during a fire
Implementing a fire safety program involves a lot of moving parts. It’s essential to collaborate with local officials and your workplace team to ensure your plan is practical and simple to enact. Even with regular training and drills, you’ll want to make sure that your employees continue to follow good safety habits through workplace supervision and educational posters on important topics like the fire extinguisher “PASS” system.
Remember, one of the most important aspects of sound fire prevention and safety at work is training. If you have a refresher course or new employee fire training on the books, National Safety Compliance can help. Our all-in-one training courses contain everything you need to hold a successful training session, including video lessons, presentations for your lecture, and printable handouts.
Our Fire Safety Training Course is suitable for Construction and General Industry and covers vital information from OSHA Standard 29 CFR 1910 Subparts E&L. This course is available on DVD/USB, instant digital access, or self-led online training courses.