Since elementary school, the concept of stop, drop, and roll has been drilled into the young minds of children. Unfortunately, this is often where fire safety training and education ends. In order to properly respond to a fire, it is vital to further expand on this education, especially in the workplace.
Many employers feel as though fire safety and training is not something they need to be concerned with. It is easy to fall under the impression that you and your employees will never be impacted by a fire, but fires are a lot more commonplace than many assume.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) estimates that the fire department responds to a fire every 24 seconds, a fire-related injury occurs every 35 minutes, and a fatality every 144 minutes in the United States. As a result of these frequent fires, the U.S. Fire Administration estimated losses of $26.5 billion in 2018.
This is time, money, and lives that are carelessly lost and, in most cases, could have been otherwise prevented with proper training on fire safety. Simply hanging an evacuation plan in the breakroom is not enough training to ensure the wellbeing of your employees. When an actual fire occurs, panic sets in, and reasonable action is often forgotten.
This onset of panic is due to a lack of training on the process of evacuation. The only way to prevent the injuries and fatalities caused by this is with proper training. The most powerful defense an employer can take against potential threats of fire is empowering their employees by preparing them with fire safety training and response.
Fire safety experts believe that training, knowledge, and practical experience can be the difference between a few small flames and an uncontrolled blaze. This is why at National Safety Compliance, we offer several different ways to train your employees on fire safety, including turn-key online training modules here on Online OSHA Training, as well as more traditional employer-led training programs available on DVD, USB, or Digital Access on OSHA-Safety-Training.net.
Guidelines for Workplace Fire Safety Training
Employer Fire Safety Responsibilities:
- Emergency Preparedness Plan: All employers should have a emergency preparedness plan in place in the event of a fire to outline all actions that employees should take. Plans should include response duties, coordination with fire departments, resources for the disabled, evacuation, emergency communication, and first aid provisions.
- Equipment: Must have the proper equipment and maintain it with proper inspections to ensure that they are working properly.
- Training: In order for employees to know how to work fire equipment like extinguishers and fire suppression systems it is important for them to have training on the proper operation of the equipment. This fire safety training should be provided by the employer.
Employee Fire Safety Responsibilities:
- Keep informed on safety procedures: Employees must pay attention to all safety procedures and details laid out in the Emergency Preparedness Plan. They have the responsibility to retain the information, participate, and confidently use the equipment. Signs and posters can help employees remember fire safety information.
- Participate in drills: It is vital to take any drills in your office building seriously regardless of whether or not they are an inconvenience, because they are designed to ensure you are fully prepared for an emergency.
- Understand your fight or flight options: In the event of an actual fire it is important to decide to either fight the fire if you are trained and confident in your ability to use an extinguisher or immediately exit the building and trigger the alarm if that is not already done. There is no time for indecision so this is important to consider beforehand.
Roles of Fire Safety Professionals:
It is important to be mindful of comparing your roles to those of professionals, especially in the event of an actual fire. Some jobs are important to leave to the professionals who are trained on how to handle particular situations and fire safety in a specific manner. These responsibilities include;
- Fire officers: Respond to emergency cases and provide immediate assistance.
- Fire warden: Clear the building of all people and ensure that no one is stuck inside by carrying out a thorough check and call.
- Fire marshals: Identify fire hazards at their workplace by keeping station equipment in great condition and updating records for incoming service calls.
- Fire inspectors: Work to prevent fires by providing regular inspections and helping employers to follow policies and report any needed changes, unsafe activities, or poor conditions.
Your employees can become a fire warden or marshal for your own office or building by going through fire marshal training and receiving their fire marshal certificate. These certificates last for 3 years and give you the ability to delegate responsibilities so you can effectively manage and prevent fires in the workplace.
Even though these responsibilities vary between employer, employees, and professionals, the person responsible for fire safety is still always the employer. They must communicate with staff to implement and maintain relevant fire safety procedures, prepare for an emergency, and supply fire safety information.
Types of Fires and Ways to Stop Them
To the untrained eye, fire is simply fire, but in reality, fire is actually broken down into different classifications. Knowing the differences between these fires is essential to fully understanding how to put them out.
This type of fire sparks from wood, paper, trash, and other materials known as common fuel sources. These should be extinguished with water by streaming a continuous supply onto the source of the fire.
These ignite due to explosions of flammable liquids or gasses. To extinguish these, simply deplete the oxygen supply by smothering the flames. Never attempt to put out a fire fueled by flammable liquids with water because it splatters and spreads the flames to give the fire strength instead of taking it away.
These are known as electrical fires that erupt due to components like appliances and motors and are often seen in industries with lots of electrical power equipment. To extinguish these fires, cut the power and use non-conductive chemicals like carbon dioxide.
This type of fire ignites combustible metals. Laboratories are often environments where these occur. Class D fires should be extinguished with dry powder agents like graphite powder or powdered copper. Similar to a Class B fire, you should never use water to attempt to extinguish it as water burns when it comes in contact with specific metals.
These are cooking fires that are often seen in commercial buildings, restaurants, or company break rooms caused by ovens, stovetops, or appliances like microwaves. These should be put out with a fire extinguisher.
To further understand fire, it is important some of the main causes. These include but are not limited to;
- Electrical equipment
- Cooking equipment
- Faulty wiring
- Flammable liquids
These hazards of fires are used a lot in our everyday lives, making it seem like threats of fire are inevitable. Eliminating fire hazards doesn’t mean you have to throw out all your candles and never use another electrical unit, you simply have to follow safer guidelines while using them.
- If an electrical cord, unit or device becomes warm or overloaded disconnect any appliances attached
- Keep your work environment clean and ensure aisles, exits and self-closing doors are easily accessible
- Limit and enforce areas where smoking is allowed
- Avoid using space heaters for too long of a time period, as heating equipment is the second leading cause of fire deaths
- Keep candles one foot away from anything that can burn and never leave them unattended
- Do not leave any cooking equipment, even something as simple as a microwave, unattended and keep anything flammable such as dish towels or wooden spoons away from appliances
Proper use and Maintenance of Fire Safety Equipment
Simply having the equipment necessary to put out a fire is a great first step, but from there it is important to regularly care for and maintain the equipment. What good is a faulty fire extinguisher or fire alarm with a dead battery going to be in the event of a fire?
Proper Fire Extinguisher Usage and Maintenance
Extinguishers should only be used on smaller fires, as it is often not as effective with bigger fires. To properly work a fire extinguisher, you pull the pin while pointing away from you, aim towards the base of the fire, squeeze the lever slowly and evenly, and sweep from side-to-side. This is called the PASS System, and all employees should know these steps.
After using an extinguisher, it is important to replace or refill your extinguisher to ensure that it is ready in case of another emergency. Even if your extinguisher has not been used recently, they should be checked on a regular basis and tested by professionals every few years.
Fire extinguishers should be stored in areas that are accessible within seconds. You should have at least one fire extinguisher on each floor of your building or office space in easy to grab spots, near exits and in any kitchen areas.
Fire and Smoke Alarm Installation and Maintenance
Fire alarms and smoke alarms must first be properly installed. It is vital to ensure all of your alarms are installed correctly and in working order.
After installation, the battery in smoke and fire alarms should be replaced every year. There are life-long batteries, but these should be avoided for older alarms that do not work as well with these legacy products. The alarm itself should be replaced every decade and checked often.
Fire alarm guidelines are different for schools, hospitals, apartments, hotels, homes, and office spaces so it is important to check guidelines for your specific building.
Emergency Light Illumination
Exit and emergency lights are designed to provide you and your employees with a path to safety in the event of a fire. They are required in all commercial buildings with the intent to save the lives of those who use those buildings.
It is important to ensure that your emergency and exit lights illuminate properly because in the event of a power failure your employees will use those lights to get to safety. The fire code requires that your illumination works for a minimum of 90 minutes when called to do so. To ensure that your lighting will work when you need it most it is important to do a monthly test.
Keeping Records of Maintenance
Record keeping is another important aspect of fire safety, especially regarding fire inspections as inspectors often review these records. Because of this, employers should make and maintain documentation of all records associated with fire protection systems and services.
These records should be updated, stored, and organized for inspectors to see the documentation of regular inspection and maintenance for alarms, sprinklers, extinguishers, and any safety data sheets.
General Fire Safety Rules and Guidelines
To add to your knowledge beyond stop, drop, and roll, another great saying to keep in mind is ACT don’t panic. ACT stands for Assess the situation, Choose your response, and Take action.
These steps include identifying hazards and determining if any people are at risk, then limiting the response of those involved and taking individual action then sounding the alarm and evacuating. These are great steps to keep in mind when running through each part of the ACT acronym.
It is also important to be mindful of OSHA’s guidelines and local codes enforced by local fire safety professionals. Their guidelines are meant to prevent fires and are something you should consider and implement before it is too late.
Fire can present a serious risk to any business; killing and injuring employees, burning and damaging buildings, and creating a massive loss of equipment and funds. As a result, it is vital to provide fire safety training for your employees to ensure their safety in the event of a fire.
If you have any questions about fire safety training programs, please don’t hesitate to reach out. You can contact us by commenting below, using the chat function on our site, e-mailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 877-922-7233.
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