Fires devastate property, cause injuries and take lives. A fire in the corporate office can also mean the end of a jobs, as many offices and factories devastated by fire in Canada are never reconstructed. One of the most significant paths for maintaining workplace safety and preventing fires is fire safety training.
With the right training, workers can eliminate the risk of fire and respond quickly and effectively in the event of a fire. Without proper training, a small incident can quickly develop into a major one with devastating consequences.
In the event of a fire, everyone is at risk. However, some workers are at greater risk because of the time of day or place of work, or because they are unfamiliar with the buildings or equipment in their workplace.
Fire safety training can teach workers how to identify fire risks, how to conduct a fire safety risk assessment, how to prevent workplace fires, and how to respond in the event of a fire.
Recognizing Fire Hazards
Fire safety training begins with identifying the basic properties of fire. All fires occur when heat (the ignition source) comes in contact with fuel (something flammable) and oxygen is present. To prevent fires, the goal is to separate the ignition source from the fuel.
Conducting a Fire Safety Risk Assessment
A fire safety risk assessment helps determine what a workplace needs to do to prevent fires and keep people safe. The assessment looks at:
- Emergency routes and exits
- Fire detection and alarm systems
- Firefighting equipment
- Removal or safe storage of hazardous materials
- Emergency fire evacuation plans
- Needs of vulnerable populations
- Communication with employees and others on site
- Fire safety training for personnel
A fire safety risk assessment is the primary step in recognizing fire hazards. It determines who is at risk, the state of emergency preparedness, and the effectiveness of workplace controls. With the information from the risk assessment, employers can improve their fire safety programs and eliminate or reduce risks. Employers can also ensure that workers receive proper training.
Preventing Workplace Fires
During fire safety training, employees learn how to prevent fires. When employees are aware of the best ways to prevent fires, they can contribute greatly to a safer workplace.
Tips for limiting fires in the workplace include:
- Keep your workplace clean. Common trash and construction debris can become fuel for the fire. Clutter can block access to exits and emergency equipment.
- Smoke only in designated areas and safely extinguish smoking materials. Do not smoke in storage areas or chemical storage areas.
- Mark hazards and potential fire risks with clearly visible signs. Post emergency phone numbers and company addresses by telephone in all workplaces.
- Keep machinery clean and well lubricated to prevent overheating and sparks from friction.
- Keep greasy rags in a covered metal container. This waste should be disposed of properly and regularly.
- Make immediate repairs to defective wiring and faulty electrical equipment. Never attempt any electrical repairs unless you are qualified and authorized to do so.
- Do not place wires or cords under carpets or near heat sources; place wires or cords outside doors where they are subject to wear and tear.
- Keep all electrical control panels open. Materials or equipment stored in front of control panels can delay power outages in an emergency.
- Use and store chemicals safely. Read labels and safety data sheets for flammability and other fire hazards. Provide sufficient ventilation while handling and storing these substances.
- Be aware of possible ignition sources when working in potentially explosive environments, such as those containing flammable liquid vapors or fine particles (e.g., when spraying automotive paint or grain powder). Use non-sparking tools and check for static electricity when necessary.
- Do not block nozzles, firefighting equipment, or emergency exits. Respect clearances when stacking materials.
- Learn how to properly use fire extinguishers. Know where fire extinguishers are located and which ones to use for specific types of fires.
How to Respond if a Fire Starts
Everyone in the workplace must be prepared for a fire. Employees need to know what to do in the event of a fire and how to work together to effectively stop a fire.
Through fire safety training, employees can learn:
- The company's emergency plan.
- The role of employees in emergency plans
- How to activate the fire alarm so people in the building can escape
- To leave the area immediately and close all doors behind them
- Where is the designated assembly point
- What to do if they encounter heat or smoke on their way out
- How to extinguish a small fire with a portable fire extinguisher
Employees and employers should take fire drills seriously and learn from them to be better prepared. Practicing what to do in the event of a fire can reveal shortcomings in emergency plans, which can then be addressed. Practicing also builds confidence and helps everyone stay calm in the event of a real fire.
The Use of Extinguishers
Most workplaces have portable fire extinguishers. Fire extinguishers can only put out small, enclosed fires, such as those in wastepaper baskets. Fire extinguishers may or may not be suitable for handling grease fires or electrical fires in different workplaces.
Workers who have not been trained in the proper use of portable fire extinguishers should not attempt to extinguish fires.
Through training, workers never learn to put out a fire:
- If the fire is large or spreading
- If their escape route may be blocked by the spread of the fire
- If they are not trained in the proper use of fire extinguishers or unsure of the type of fire
When employees put out a fire, they should.
- Call 1-0-1 first.
- Make sure everyone is evacuated or out of the area or building