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Protect your workplace from fire

Flammable Safety Symbol
In the event of an emergency, it’s easy to forget fire safety protocol. Posting information that provides detailed instructions for different scenarios can help workers respond confidently and effectively.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the 2010 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries found that work-related deaths caused by fires more than doubled from 53 in 2009 to 109 in 2010 — the highest count since 2003. Moreover, according to the Occupational Health Safety Administration (OSHA), there are between 70,000 to 80,000 workplace fires in the U.S. each year, causing death, injury, and over $2 billion in property damage. The good news? 15% of these fires resulted from equipment failure, meaning that the other 85% is due to human error. Therefore, the majority of workplace fires can be prevented and their effect vastly reduced by simply implementing fire prevention and control plans. An effective plan should:

  1. Educate workers on the potential causes of fires (i.e. electric cables, heating equipment)
  2. Provide instructions for proper handling of flammable materials
  3. Arrange for fire control systems (i.e. sprinklers, fire-extinguishers, and fire alarms)
  4. Offer instructions on how to use fire prevention tools (fire-extinguisher instructions)
  5. Formulate an exit plan to facilitate the evacuation process (featuring proper safety signage such as exit signs to highlight fire escape routes)
  6. Practice fire drills

After communicating the plan to employees, it is advisable to put it in writing and post it up in the office for all employees and fire safety inspectors to see. After the plan has been constructed, it’s time to implement it.

First of all, make a note of all the potential fire hazards like wiring and cables and then ensure that these hazards are known through such tactics as warning signs and by keeping your workplace clean and organized.

Another good practice is to store all hazardous and flammable chemicals/materials in fire-prevention cabinets. These cabinets are usually yellow to optimize visibility and are made from heat-resistant chemicals. Most importantly, post flammable signs to warn employees to nearby danger. These signs should be bright in color, usually yellow or red to catch attention and to indicate danger, and placed conspicuously to amplify visibility.

In addition, the importance of providing fire-extinguishers cannot be stressed enough. Besides the fact that OSHA requires all workplaces to have fire extinguishers in various areas of the facility, they are an invaluable means of putting out small-scale fires. While firefighters are experts, they may be either unavailable or arrive too late, and workers may be threatened by even the small-scale fires that extinguishers are best for.

Instead, be responsible for fire extinguishers and instructions on how to use them (via instruction labels or safety training programs). Also, fire extinguishers should be inspected and maintained regularly in order to ensure their integrity. Other fire protection equipment like sprinklers, smoke detectors, and fire blankets should be made available and maintained.

Additionally, designate certain smoking areas by posting “no smoking” signs throughout the workplace and especially near flammable materials. These signs not only improve employee health, but greatly reduce the chances of cigarette butts becoming the source of a fire.

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