Why You Need To Make Fire Protection In The Workplace A Priority
We’ve come a long way in regards to fire safety in the workplace. But have we come far enough? Since fires continue to occur in our facilities and on our work sites, the answer is a resounding no. Any fire, no matter its size, is one fire too many. We have a lot of work ahead of us to eliminate workplace fires completely; work that is more than compensated for by the number of injuries and fatalities we will prevent.
Planning Is The Key To Fire Safety In The Workplace
The key to eliminating fires from starting is to have a solid fire prevention plan in place. A fire prevention plan requires a strong foundation; that all potential fire hazards are found and documented. Now, this can seem a little overwhelming when considering some lines of work, such as a sprawling multi-acre production facility. There will definitely be a very long list of potential fire hazards on those premises. But consider the implications of having such an exhaustive list; by doing so, we thoroughly document all of the potential fire sources so that we can create plans and procedures to prevent those fires from occurring.
The fire hazards that we don’t document, the ones that we miss, are the ones that are likely to cause the most significant incidents. Even small fires, given the right circumstances, can escalate to towering infernos and catastrophic damages. This is why we need to include all heat sources, electrical outlets, and any other source that could potentially ignite a fire.
Implementing OSHA Fire Protection Procedures
Fire prevention plans don’t stop there. Once all the fire hazards are documented, OSHA fire protection procedures need to be developed for the proper handling and storage of hazardous materials, making sure that the proper precautions are in place when using them near fire hazards. It’s also important to make sure they aren’t stored near fire hazards, either. In addition, controls need to be developed for potential ignition sources, to ensure that they don’t start uncontrolled fires.
Plans also need to include suppression methods for each fire hazard. Not all fires are the same, and so we can’t douse every fire with water and call it good enough. What would happen if we turned a hose onto a fire in an electrical panel? Let’s agree that we don’t want one of our employees to find out firsthand.
Accounting For Less Obvious Fire Hazards
What about other flammable or combustible materials? They need to be accounted for in the plan as well. Not only do we need to consider the products and equipment that we use in our operations, we also need to consider the byproducts and materials that we don’t use directly. For example, many dusts, including wood, plastic, and even some metals, are highly combustible in enclosed environments. So if your operations create lots of dust, make sure that your plan provides the procedures to ensure that they don’t combust. Paper, cardboard, and wooden pallets also are combustible materials that can accumulate and create a significant fire hazard. These need to be included in the fire prevention plan, as well.
Employee Training & Awareness
Our plans also need to ensure that the necessary HSEQ fire protection and prevention information is communicated to our employees, as well. After all, what good does it do us if only one person in an office knows and understands the plan, while dozens or hundreds of employees are working near these fire hazards? Post signs that warn employees of the fire hazards, and where the fire extinguishers and other suppression methods are located.
All of this needs to be documented in a written fire prevention plan, and must be available for employees to review. They should also be trained on the fire prevention plan, so that they understand the procedures, and even clue them into why the procedures are in place. The more they know and understand how the procedures are keeping them safe, the more likely they are to buy into and follow the procedures.