Workplace fire safety tips
Last week, we prepared a blog post on the biggest OSHA fines in history. It came as no surprise that the top 5 incidents, despite their industry, were all explosions. This leads to our topic for this week: workplace fire safety. According to OSHA, workplace fires and explosions kill 200 and injure more than 5,000 workers each year. Let’s take a look at a few more significant statistics when talking about workplace fire safety.
- 8% of all burns are work related.
- Fires cost U.S. businesses more than $2.3 billion in property damage.
- Electrical fires account for 22% of workplace fires.
- 5 to 10 arc flash accidents occur every day in the U.S.
- 16% of all oil and gas fatalities are the result of exposure to fires and explosions.
Workplace fire safety tips
Fires are among the biggest cause of casualties in the workplace, but being proactive and implementing a fire plan can significantly help reduce the risk. The most important thing to consider when creating a fire plan is to determine the likelihood of a fire.
Identify the risks
A fire hazard may look different in each workplace. From the fire triangle, we know that the 3 sources of fire are ignition, fuel and oxygen. Identify areas that carry the risk of ignition such as electrical equipment, boilers, hot works processes, steam pipes, and other sources of heat.
Define the classification of fuels in your workplace and the type of fire extinguisher required. Class A fuels include wood, paper, cloth, trash, plastics, or any solid combustible materials that are not metals. Class B fuels are flammable liquids like gasoline, oil, grease, acetone, or any non-metal in a liquid state, on fire. Class C fuels are energized electrical equipment so, as long as it’s “plugged in,” it would be considered a class C fire. Class D fuels are metals, potassium, sodium, aluminum, and magnesium. Lastly, Class K fuels are defined as a cooking fire involving combustion from liquids used in food preparation, like greases or cooking oils.
And of course, fires only need about 16% of oxygen to burn. Trying to minimize oxygen flow in fires across large areas or plants isn’t feasible but for small fires, using dirt, sand, or non-flammable blankets is recommended. Make sure you are aware of any ventilation, air conditioning systems, or other sources of airflow in hazard-prone areas.
If there’s a fire, of course, everyone is at risk. But it’s critical to know who is in and around the premises, who among your staff work alone or in isolated areas, requires extra care such as elders or workers with special needs, or is new to the facility. Keeping continuous track of this information will simplify your evacuation plan and processes in the case of an emergency.
Construction & Maintenance, and Blue Water Solutions.
Evaluate and reduce risks
Removing fire hazards in the workplace is easier said than done, but preventative action can be taken. Make sure not to use any damaged electrical cords or tools and to not overload circuits. Equipment maintenance and safe chemical usage and storage are also important factors in preventing fire hazards. Keeping your work area clean from dust and debris may sound like basic housekeeping, but as we can see from the Imperial Sugar Company dust explosion, keeping dust from building up in the workplace can be a matter of life and death.
Use PPE when in contact with fire hazards such as but not limited to flame-resistant gloves, jackets, and pants. OSHA states that if fire hazards are present, or likely to be present in the workplace the employer will have each affected employee use the types of PPE that will protect the affected employee from the hazards identified in the hazard assessment.
Prepare an emergency plan and provide training
Not all employers are required to create an emergency plan, but surely there are more things to gain than lose in having one.
- Have a preferred method for reporting fires and other emergencies.
- Make sure evacuation policy and procedures are in place.
- Determine route assignments, such as floor plans, workplace maps, and safe or refuge areas.
- Keep all names, titles, departments, and telephone numbers of individuals both within and outside your company to contact for additional information or explanation of duties and responsibilities under the emergency plan;
- Create procedures for employees who remain to shut down or perform critical plant operations, operate fire extinguishers, or perform other essential services that cannot be shut down for every emergency alarm before evacuating; and
- Establish rescue and medical duties for any workers designated to perform them.