Fire can break out anywhere, including where you work. Each year numerous fires in the workplace cause injury and property loss. If a fire started in your office or in the building where you work, would you know what to do? Do you know your workplace evacuation procedures in the event of an alarm? What can you do to prevent fires in your workplace?
Every organization should establish a fire safety plan. The plan must address fire prevention and emergency evacuation requirements. Not only is having a fire safety plan good business but it is also a legal requirement identified by both Federal and Provincial Fire Codes and Regulations.
Fire Safety in the Workplace
Following simple fire safety practices can prevent fires at work and reduce injuries and losses.
- Keep your workplace clutter free
- Keep exits, stairways, storage areas, staff rooms and work areas free from debris such as empty boxes, waste paper and dirty rags.
- Keep flammable liquid storage to a minimum and in approved containers.
- Keep large quantities of flammable liquids in an approved storage cabinet.
- Follow your buildings security measures and keep unauthorized people out of your workplace.
- Keep alleys and other areas around your building well lit.
Fire prevention tips for a safer workplace
- Smoke only in areas allowed.
- Use large, non-tip ashtrays. Do not empty contents into wastebaskets.
- Check for smouldering cigarettes on furniture and in wastebaskets.
- Check and replace any electrical cords that have cracked insulation or broken connectors.
- Avoid octopus wiring.
- Do not run extension cords across doorways or under rugs.
- Avoid plugging more than one extension cord into an outlet.
- Use only CSA (Canadian Standards Association) approved power bars.
- Use only CSA approved appliances.
- Leave enough space for the circulation of air around heaters and other equipment such as computer terminals and copy machines.
- Keep all appliances a safe distance from combustible materials.
- Always turn off or unplug appliances at the end of each day.
Portable Fire Extinguishers
Most workplaces contain portable fire extinguishers. Fire extinguishers can only put out small, contained fires, such as a fire in a wastebasket. The extinguisher in your workplace may or may not be suitable for dealing with grease or electrical fires.
If you have not been trained in the proper use of portable extinguishers, do not attempt to fight a fire.
- Never fight a fire:
- If the fire is large or spreading;
- If your escape route may be blocked by the spread of fire;
- If you are not trained in the correct use of the extinguisher or are unsure of the type of fire.
- If you do fight a fire:
- Call the Local Fire Services first at 9-1-1;
- Ensure everyone has evacuated or is leaving the area/building;
- Only fight a small fire
- Prepare for Emergencies
- During a fire, everyone’s safety depends on good preparation and an efficient evacuation.
- Employers should…
- Post a fire escape plan in a prominent location on every level
- Ensure all employees are familiar with exit locations, escape routes and fire extinguisher locations
- Conduct regular fire drills
- Post the emergency numbers on or near all telephones
- Make provisions for the safe evacuation of employees with disabilities by appointing someone to assist them
- Appoint and train a fire warden on each level of the building to ensure safe evacuation and ongoing safety programs
- Employees should…
- Know the location of all building exits
- Know the location of the nearest fire alarms and how to use them
- Count the doors or desks between their work area and nearest exit. During a fire, exit signs may not be visible due to smoke or a power failure.
Arson is one of the leading causes of fire in the workplace. To prevent or minimize the risk of fire due to arson, remember:
- To be aware of your building security procedures;
- Report any type of vandalism and notify security and/or police of suspicious behaviour and visitors;
- Lock doors after working hours;
- Ensure areas around your building are free of combustibles and are well lit;
- Keep all halls, lobbies and areas used by the public clear of obstructions.
- What to do if a fire occurs:
- Sound the alarm and leave the building immediately, closing all doors behind you.
- If smoke blocks your primary exit, use another one. If you must exit through the smoke, stay low by crawling on your hands and knees.
- Check doors before opening them. Kneel or crouch at the door, reach up and touch the door, knob and frame. If you feel any warmth on or around the door, use another escape route. If the door feels cool, open it slowly and carefully with your shoulder against it. Slam the door shut if you see flames or smoke on the other side.
- Call 9-1-1 no matter how small the fire appears to be.
Follow directions, from fire and security personnel. Once outside, move away from the building to the designated meeting location, out of the way of fire fighters. Remain outside until the fire department says you may go back in.