According to the U.S. Fire Administration, approximately 17,000 office and store fires occur every year in the United States, resulting in more than $800 million of damage. A fire can lead to the loss of life and disrupt your business operations for many months. To protect your business, employees, and customers from harm, follow these eight steps to improve fire safety in your office.
1. Know and Follow Your Local Fire Codes
Local fire codes are created by experts to reduce the risk of fire and limit damage should a fire occur. Though often similar, fire codes will vary between municipalities. You should familiarize yourself with your local requirements and then ensure that your office follows the fire safety standards laid out in the fire code.
2. Identify Risks in the Office
A risk analysis can help you and your employees understand both common fire risks in the office and any vulnerabilities specific to your workplace. After performing this analysis, you can take steps to address areas that need more attention.
Common risks in the office include cooking appliances, like stoves or microwaves, electrical wiring, and overloaded power strips, but there are numerous other potential risks that could increase the chances of a fire.
3. Use the Right Kind of Fire Extinguishers for Your Office
Fire extinguishers come in varying sizes and use different fire suppression materials. Not all fires will require the same type of extinguisher.
Most offices will need a multi-purpose extinguisher, but you may require something different depending on the type of materials stored in your office. Your local fire codes will most likely detail your specific requirements, and the fire department can provide more guidance.
4. Provide and Maintain Safety Equipment
In addition to fire extinguishers, you can provide other safety equipment to help your employees protect themselves should a fire occur. Fire blankets, first aid kits, smoke alarms, and kitchen suppression kits are among the various equipment that could help save lives and prevent damage.
Fire safety equipment must be properly maintained. Smoke alarms should have their batteries changed regularly, fire extinguishers must be tested annually, and first aid kits should have their stock replenished after use.
You should also check that equipment is not moved from designated places. In the case of fire, you want to make sure these tools are easy to find.
5. Create and Practice an Evacuation Plan
A written evacuation plan will provide direction and allow you to quickly determine if anyone is still in the office in the event of a fire. A good plan will detail the evacuation routes, the designated meeting area, and the process of making a headcount. Make sure to post your plan around the office in easy-to-find spots.
You should have regular fire drills which will ensure that your employees know what to do if a real fire occurs.
6. Train Your Employees on Prevention
You can help reduce the risk of fire occurring at all by providing essential fire prevention training for your employee, including the proper use of cooking and heating appliances.
You should also address electrical safety, which is often ignored in the office. Help your employees understand how overloaded power strips, worn-down or broken wires, and improperly used extension cords can lead to a fire.
7. Monitor High-Risk Areas
Monitoring at-risk areas can help you identify potential problems before a fire can start. For example, areas where multiple electrical cords are used, such as under desks, may need to be looked at periodically. The communal cooking area in the office should also have regular inspections.
8. Keep the Office Clean
Clutter can make a fire more likely to occur by hiding potential risks. Should a fire start, a messy office allows the fire to spread more quickly.
You should ensure that you and your employees maintain a clean, tidy workplace as a part of basic fire prevention. You should also ensure that evacuation routes are clear of furniture and other obstructions that could jeopardize the lives of your employees.
Fire safety is the concern of everyone in the office. You should set a good example and emphasize prevention and preparedness. Your leadership in these matters could save lives and prevent expensive damage.