Fire Prevention and Preparedness Tips at the Office and on the Jobsite Kevin Lindley, Safety Consultant, FRSA Self Insurer’s Fund If there was a fire while you were present at work, do you and your fellow workers know what to do? Where is the closest fire extinguisher? Do the fire alarms and emergency lighting work? Where is the closest emergency exit? Where does everyone go once they get out of the building? It’s that time of year to take a step back and look at work safety in terms of fire preparedness. It is a good practice to annually review these steps with all employees in the workplace.
Have a Plan
Per the International Fire Code (IFC) section 404.2, a fire safety and evacuation plan is required for only certain types of structures; however, it is highly recommended that a plan be developed, maintained and displayed in every workplace. The plan should include not only the routes to be taken and locations of the building emergency exits, but it should also clearly identify the location of fire extinguishers and the designated meeting place employees are to congregate during an actual emergency. List one employee who will act as the safety officer in the event of an emergency.
Verify Equipment is Present and Working
Most commercial buildings are required to have, at minimum, smoke alarms, fire extinguisher(s) and a clear means of egress out of the building. Additional emergency supplies may also include emergency lighting, emergency signage, first aid kit, flashlights and even bottles of water. Project sites shall have a fire extinguisher present where there are flammable or combustible materials, tools or equipment present or in use. Fire extinguishers on project sites shall be readily available and within 20 feet of the heat source or fire hazard present, placed no closer to the hazard than 10 feet away. Smoke alarms, fire extinguishers and emergency lighting shall be tested monthly to verify proper operation/condition. Smoke alarms and emergency lighting typically have a test button easily accessible on the unit that, when pressed, will cause the lights to illuminate or the alarm to briefly sound. Testing emergency alarms is recommended when no other employees are present, or once everyone has been properly notified of the testing prior to the test being conducted. Emergency exit signs shall be posted at all exterior doors. Exit signs which are equipped with emergency illumination shall also be tested by pushing the test button located on the unit. First Aid kits are often depleted without notification. 36
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Check the contents of the first aid kit regularly to verify all intended items are present.
There are five primary fire classifications: ■ Type A fires are wood, cardboard, paper, textiles and rubbish ■ Type B fires are chemicals and flammable liquids ■ Type C fires are electrical ■ Type D fires are combustible or flammable metals ■ Type K fires are combustible and flammable cooking/kitchen media The most common type of fire extinguisher for an office and on the job is an ABC-rated fire extinguisher, which is designed to be used on types A, B and C fires. Every fire extinguisher shall be inspected once a month. Completing a monthly fire extinguisher inspection requires several small steps. The monthly inspection steps are as follows: ■ Check the date of the annual inspection on the exterior tag, sticker or collar band. Fire extinguishers are required to be inspected annually by the manufacturer, supplier, or fire extinguisher inspection company. The company will typically provide a tag, sticker or collar band around the neck of the extinguisher which indicates the month and year of the last inspection. ■ Check the condition of the fire extinguisher. Ensure the container is free of defects, the handles have proper separation, the hose is fully screwed onto the tank and free of cracks and the end of the hose is free of blockage. Fire extinguishers shall be secured to prevent damage while being transported. Blockages should be cleared with a pen or screw; do not use a finger (spiders bite). ■ Verify the fire extinguisher has proper pressure. Pressure gauge on the front of the extinguisher should be in the green indicating area; when in the red it is either over pressurized or under pressurized. Even a slight release of pressure will continue to leak if the seal has been broken resulting in an improperly pressurized tank. Tanks not properly pressurized should be exchanged or re-certified immediately. ■ Confirm the fire extinguisher has a safety pin and tamper seal band. Safety pins located in the neck of the fire