Top three fire hazards in the workplace

When it comes to property loss, tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes and floods aren’t the top culprit – it’s fire. Roughly $12 billion in property loss occurs every year as a result of fire. However, if you are prepared for the worst, you can often prevent even the smallest of disasters from occurring.

First, let’s look at some of the most common fire hazards in the workplace. There is no quantifiable source on this, but we know to err is human, so that’s got to be our first fire hazard to discuss.

1) Human negligence

Whether it’s a simple accident that gets out of hand, improper use of equipment, a refreshing mug of iced tea that gets knocked over into electrical equipment – you name a way someone can screw up and it’s happened in the workplace and led to a fire.

The problem is, there is no way to completely remove the human error aspect from the equation, unless you’re in an industry where robots do the bulk of the work. However, with proper training, you can drastically reduce fires by combating ignorance with knowledge.

Furthermore, aside from training workers how to prevent fires, they also need training on what to do when a fire starts. They need to know where the fire extinguishers are located, how to use them; the location of hose reels and how to use them; and where they should exit the building should their normal pathway out be blocked by smoke and/or flames.

2) Faulty electrical equipment

Hidden away from the everyday worker are miles and miles (depending on the size of the structure) of electrical lines and equipment that keep the workplace going. However, it’s in these hidden lines where a unnoticed malfunction leads to a blaze, sometimes going unnoticed for so long that there can be no recovery.

  • Faulty outlets – Probably the #1 place where electrical fires begin is the outlet, often outdated and overloaded. Make sure all your outlets are up to date, up to code and are not overloaded with more appliances than they can handle.
  • Wiring – Outdated wiring is another major cause of electrical fires. If the building in which your business operates is 20 years old or older, have a professional look over your wiring to ensure there is no fraying or improperly placed wires, especially in those hidden areas.
  • Light fixtures – It’s not uncommon for employees to place high wattage bulbs in low wattage sockets. This leads to heat, which can lead to fire. Also, putting a cloth or combustible material near a light fixture can lead to fire. Finally, tubed fluorescent lights are powered by ballasts that deteriorate with age and can generate heat, smoke and fire.

3) Combustible and flammable products

In any given workplace, regardless of the industry, flammable and combustible materials contribute to many, many workplace fires. From simple cleaning agents to industry-related combustibles, there are ways to store, handle and manage these products and materials that will prevent them from causing or adding to the severity of a fire.

In the case of a flammable liquid spill, things can get out of hand rather fast, which is why training your employees how to properly clean up a potential flammable mess is so important. The vapors associated with these spills represent an invisible threat that can lead to explosion, injury, property loss and even death.

OSHA guidelines are a great resource for how to handle chemical, combustible and flammable spills.

Good housekeeping prevents fires

A buildup of dust, particularly in the metals industry, can lead to a conflagration, which is why a thorough housekeeping strategy is in order for the workplace. If your industry is one where combustible waste tends to build up, your housekeeping strategy should include regular removal of said waste. Also, any potential ignition source needs to be monitored and all waste kept away from the source.

Identifying potential risks

How good are your observational skills when it comes to identifying potential risks? This might not be something you’ll automatically know how to spot, so bring in a professional to assist you. Contact your local fire department or get in touch with OSHA, which can help you with industry-specific fire hazards.

Establish your emergency plan

If your local fire department offers training for fire-related emergencies, set up an annual training session where all your employees or key team leaders attend. However, you must ensure that all your employees are familiar with your fire emergency plan, regardless of the size of the emergency. All procedures in your plan need to be easily understandable and thorough.

Your legal obligation

Every state and municipality will have various codes that businesses must follow when it comes to fire prevention systems. In Chicago, for instance, the city has four prevention bureau offices that conduct general inspections of all types of businesses, schools and hotels.

Create a safe workplace

Fire protection services include a variety of complex systems for workplaces of all types. For those working with hazardous materials, something other than a water sprinkler system will be designed and installed, such as foam systems that smother flames. However, the most common systems for businesses include sprinklers, backflows, fire hoses, emergency lights, exit signs and many other components that create a safer workplace.

At Valley Fire Protection Systems, we are trained and certified to design and build a fire protection system that will keep your property and your people safe. From high-rise residential properties to education to governmental, healthcare and assisted living to churches and industrial/manufacturing properties, we have worked on systems of every variety, and we know how to tackle the fire protection system at your property.

Contact us today and let’s talk about your new construction that requires a fire system, retrogrades to your current property or updates to your current system.

Related Topics: Fire Hazards // Safety Tips
By: Tom Hartel
I acquired my expertise by directing day-to-day operations of the business for over 20 years. Continuous hard work helped me become a nationally recognized speaker and expert on fire protection, fire sprinklers, special hazards, and plumbing systems. In this blog, I share my knowledge that will hopefully help you make better decisions for your projects.

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