Fire: it’s one of the most basic dangers in any setting. We learn fire safety from an early age; fire drills and the ever popular “stop, drop, and roll” are a part of every elementary school student’s basic knowledge. But fire safety shouldn’t stop when you leave school.
How can you make sure that your facility is ready to handle this most basic danger? In this month’s Spotlight on Safety, we’re going to discuss how you and your employees can best prepare for a fire emergency.
The most important step you can take toward fire safety is preparing your employees for the unlikely case of an emergency. This happens with lots of training and an Emergency Action Plan. OSHA recommends having evacuation drills as often as possible, and debriefing your team afterward to decide what went well and what didn’t.
No one knows how they will react when faced with a real emergency. However, by conducting regular drills and evacuation plans, you are ensuring that muscle memory will take over, and everyone will know where to go and what to do based on practice.
Drills are also important because they help employees know where the nearest exit is to their specific work location. It’s just like they say on airplanes, “the nearest exit may be behind you.” If everyone is familiar with a specific escape route from their location, you’ll have a safer and more expedient evacuation process.
All employees should be aware of the Emergency Action Plan, but you should have at least a few responsible employees receive extra designated training on it so that they can take over and direct the evacuation process, in case of an emergency. These individuals can be trusted to direct traffic and maintain order to evacuate the building and premises, in the chaos of an emergency.
Fire preparedness also involves individual-based training and fire prevention. Some common questions to ask about your staff, include:
- Do your employees know to stay low to the ground in case of a fire?
- Do they know which chemicals or tools they work with that could cause a fire hazard?
- Do they know where the nearest fire alarm is to their work station?
- Do they know which fire extinguishers to use on which types of fires? (You wouldn’t want to use a water based extinguisher on an electrical fire, for instance.)
Make sure that at least ONE person in each work area is trained on extinguisher use, and knows how to read the labels to avoid using the wrong extinguisher on a particular fire.
Speaking of fire extinguishers, it’s important to make sure that they are up to date and undamaged. The same can be said for working smoke alarms, sprinklers, and fire alarms. The manufacturers will probably check on your systems annually, but if you have a designated safety manager or safety czar, they should do a spot check at least once a month.
Spot checks are also a good time to make sure that nothing is blocking any fire safety equipment. There should never be an obstruction in front of an extinguisher or alarm. You should also make sure that there aren’t any particularly high shelves or cabinets that might impede the spray of the sprinklers in an emergency (all of our products and lockers are made of wire mesh rather than sheet metal, for this exact reason).
You can’t predict emergencies, but you can certainly prepare for them.
- Hold regular evacuation drills
- Make sure every employee is familiar with the Emergency Action Plan, and knows the quickest and safest escape route from their work area
- Do job-specific fire safety training (which chemicals are flammable, etc.)
- Make sure employees are familiar with the different kinds of extinguishers and how/when to use them
- Ensure that sprinklers are not blocked and can spray freely in case of a fire
- Do regular spot checks on all fire safety equipment
By doing regular equipment checks and making sure that you and your employees are fully trained on what to do in case of a fire, you’re creating a safer workplace for everyone.
Check out our other Spotlight on Safety blogs for more tips on making your facility safer!