Maintaining a safe work environment for your team members is critical. To keep your employees safe, your business should prioritize fire prevention and response plans, and ensure that the entire workforce is adequately trained in fire safety best practices.
Each year, workplace fires and explosions are responsible for more than 200 deaths and 5,000 injuries. They also account for more than $2.3 billion worth of property damage. To avoid adding to these numbers, it’s important to communicate fire prevention and protection procedures effectively, to minimize hazards and leave as little up to chance as possible. Doing so could make all the difference in avoiding preventable injuries, damages, and deaths.
Not sure where to start? Here are eight essential fire safety tips for the workplace, plus helpful NSC resources for putting your fire prevention and protection plan into action.
Fire safety tips every workplace should follow
There’s more to workplace fire safety than simply stocking up on fire extinguishers. Implement these additional tips to mitigate fire risks and ensure that everyone is on the same page.
Tip #1: Implement a fire safety training course
All employees should receive proper fire safety training, even if they don’t interact with fire or heating elements as part of their job. This will ensure that your entire workforce understands what fire prevention and response entails.
The easiest and most affordable way to set up a fire safety training course is to utilize existing resources like the NSC Fire Safety Training Video Kit and Employee Training Booklets. These are a great starting point, and include additional printable materials like compliance manuals, quizzes, and fire safety certificates that support your training efforts with current employees and help with onboarding new ones. They can also be purchased as a bundle for added savings and convenience.
Tip #2: Identify workplace fire hazards
You don’t need to be working in an oil refinery plant to be at risk of a fire. In fact, there are plenty of common fire hazards in modern workplaces, from cooking and electrical equipment to smoking and general human error.
As part of your prevention measures, identify the hazards in your place of work and communicate them to employees. You should also offer reminders of the most common hazards to keep them top of mind, such as by hanging up our Faulty Wire Can Start a Fire Safety Poster.
Tip #3: Maintain your fire prevention and response infrastructure
It’s crucial that your workplace is fitted with working smoke alarms, sprinkler systems, and fire extinguishers. Your building’s control panel should also be kept accessible, so that you can shut down power in the event of an emergency.
Check all of these systems regularly to verify they are working and easy to reach, and cover the basics of how to use each system during your fire safety training course with your team.
Tip #4: Be smart with your electrical cords
Overloading your circuits can lead to overheating, which in turn can lead to a fire.
Use grounded plugs to prevent risky power surges, and always check (and double check) that there are no loose electrical connections. While you’re at it, keep an eye out for noticeable signs of trouble, such as frayed cords, flickering equipment, or darkened outlets, and always unplug any devices that aren’t in regular use.
Tip #5: Properly store and dispose of flammable materials
Any flammable materials on site need to be handled with care. Follow all manufacturer instructions for how a particular material must be stored, and do your research on what materials can and cannot be stored near each other. Highly flammable and/or combustible materials should be stored in a flammable cabinet, with access restricted to only those individuals who need to use the materials for their job.
Tip #6: Avoid clutter
A messy workplace isn’t just bad for productivity, it’s also dangerous. Clutter can fuel a fire, and may even start one if it’s in close proximity to flammable materials. And if a fire does occur, clutter can block access to emergency exits and make it difficult for all employees to safely escape the environment.
Invest in safe storage for workplace items, and maintain good housekeeping protocols in all common and personal areas so clutter never has a chance to build up.
Tip #7: Put a risk reporting system into place
Workers are busy, and it can be all too easy to forget to notify the right person about a fire safety hazard. The best thing you can do is take all of the guesswork out of who to report risks to, and how, so that issues get flagged to the appropriate team member at their first sighting.
Of course, this goes hand in hand with educating staff on what these hazards look like. But by doing so – and by removing obstacles to reporting – you take a key step toward identifying and addressing hazards before they turn into fires.
Tip #8: Design and communicate an evacuation plan
The time to work out the specifics of your workplace fire evacuation plan is before a fire event, not during. Mark all emergency exits, and keep a clear path to them at all times. Emergency exit signs should be well lit and always visible, with immediate maintenance if they’re not. You’ll also want to designate a concise exit plan and educate every single employee on what it is, including a safe outdoor meetup spot where everyone should go after leaving the building.
You can’t always prevent a fire in the workplace, but you can train employees on how to mitigate risks, and coach them on what needs to be done to protect themselves and their peers. Doing so is a core part of broader workplace safety training, and can be instrumental in keeping everyone safe.
For additional support, check out our Fire Safety Training Bundle, which includes everything that you need to enact an effective training program in your workplace. You can also supplement your training program with other NSC materials, such as first aid training, fire extinguisher training, and other useful resources.