The concept of “fire safety” may invoke distant memories of learning “stop, drop, and roll” in grade school. As an adult it is important to expand your fire safety knowledge so that you can be cautious of fire hazards, know how to prevent fires and know what to do in case of a fire.
Along with implementing these strategies for your home, it is just as important to practice fire safety at the workplace. Here are a few ways that you can do so:
- Know the fire escape plan
Your workplace is likely required by law to have a fire escape plan posted in plain sight. If you are an employee, take it upon yourself to become familiar with it. Make sure that you have a mental plan for the route that you will take to exit the building in the case of a fire. Know where the fire extinguishers are located and make sure that you feel comfortable using this equipment if required.
Employers should regularly check with the staff to ensure that all employees know where the escape plan is posted. Training should also be performed so that all employees know the quickest escape route from various areas of the office.
- Keep a tidy work space & office
It is easy to get busy and let materials pile up around you as you work. Consider, however, that a small stack of paper next to a faulty outlet could trigger a disaster. Keep your desk and surrounding areas as clean and clear as possible. Make it a routine to regularly throw away unnecessary papers, boxes and other highly flammable materials. Keeping your area free from clutter can be critical should any safety-related event occur.
Never block or partially obstruct entryways and exits, even if these paths are rarely used. Make sure that you can easily walk from your work area to the exit of your building in the case of a power outage. Address any potential trip hazards or other impediments. Fire extinguishers, fire department equipment and sprinklers should also be easily accessible and unblocked.
- Be mindful of electrical outlets
A small work space may have just one or two electrical outlets. With the many electrical devices found at most desks it is easy to overload an outlet if you are not careful. Certain high-wattage devices such as space heaters, fans and personal coffee machines can be potentially hazardous if plugged into the same outlet as your other office equipment.
It is important that you know how much energy that an outlet can support and make sure that you do not overload the circuit. If the available outlets cannot support the needs of your equipment, you may need to find alternative ways to power your devices. This can include powering certain devices through the USB port on your computer. If no other options exist, additional outlets may need to be installed.
It is also important to unplug as many devices as possible before you leave work each day. This will greatly reduce the potential for an outlet-related fire while the office is closed.
- Maintain the fire safety equipment
When a business is first opened, the fire department often requires a fire safety inspection to be performed before the doors are opened to the public. The goal is to ensure that the business represents a fire-safe environment. The inspection typically includes verification of all required fire safety equipment such as fire extinguishers and sprinkler systems.
After this initial inspection occurs, it becomes the responsibility of the building owner or business owner to have the fire safety equipment serviced and licensed as required by law. For example, the city of Chicago requires that all fire extinguishers be serviced and tagged on an annual basis by a licensed fire extinguisher technician.
It is important that the owner or manager ensure that this equipment is kept up-to-date. This equipment serves as the first line of defense against fires in the workplace and can make the difference between a minor issue and a disaster.