Fire safety is a critical concern that should always be noticed at any workplace, regardless of the size or industry. Even a small fire can quickly rage out of control, damaging facilities, inventory, and equipment. More importantly, workplace fires lead to devastating injuries and loss of life among employees every year. That's why every business must have comprehensive policies, fire protection equipment, and regular training to ensure their workplaces are properly prepared for potential fire hazards.

Here is extensive overview of the best practices and proactive measures every company should implement to keep their staff safe and facilities protected from the threat of fire.

Make Conducting Regular Fire Risk Assessments a Priority

Comprehensive fire risk assessments should thoroughly examine all aspects of your workplace that could contribute to fires, including:

  • The overall integrity and fire resistance of the workplace structure itself.
  • The inspection of all electrical systems, wiring, outlets, and equipment for damage or faults that can spark fires.
  • Proper storage procedures for all flammable and combustible liquids, chemicals, and materials.
  • The identification of potential ignition sources in areas where flammable materials are used or stored.
  • A review of all cooking areas, equipment, and ventilation systems in kitchens and breakrooms.
  • An examination of evacuation routes, exits, and exit signage to ensure easy escape.
  • Testing fire detection systems and proper functionality of fire alarms and warning systems.
  • Inspection of automatic fire suppression systems such as water sprinklers.
  • The accessibility of portable fire extinguishers and whether they are inspected and serviced.

Inspecting previously identified risk areas and potential hazards much more frequently than lower-risk portions of your workplace is crucial.

Develop a Written Fire Prevention Plan Based on Identified Risks

Once fire risks have been thoroughly identified and assessed, the next critical step is to develop a detailed written fire prevention plan outlining the policies, procedures, equipment, training, and regular actions needed to control and mitigate these hazards actively. This comprehensive plan should include:

  • The safe handling, storage, and transportation procedures for highly flammable materials like chemicals, paints, or gases.
  • Clear identification of responsible personnel who oversee fire prevention activities in each area of the workplace. This includes monitoring compliance with the fire prevention plan.
  • Strict smoking and open flames policies tailored to the workplace's specific risks.
  • Detailed equipment maintenance programs to keep electrical, chemical handling, and cooking equipment in safe operating condition.
  • Scheduled daily, weekly, and monthly fire prevention activities like filter cleaning, waste removal, and equipment inspections.
  • Required fire and fire prevention training for all employees.
  • Plans and special precautions for any hot work activities like welding that are essential and cannot be avoided.

The fire prevention plan should be reviewed and updated at least annually, as well as after any major fires, company renovations, or changes in operations and risks. Audits of its effectiveness should be conducted periodically as well.

Utilize Fire Detection and Suppression Systems Suited to the Workplace

The installation, maintenance, and regular testing of modern fire detection and suppression systems are vital actions every workplace must take to protect employees and assets. Here are some of the most important types of systems to implement:

  • Smoke detectors should be installed strategically throughout all facilities to provide the earliest possible warning of developing fires while they can still be easily extinguished.
  • Interconnected fire alarm systems with sufficient manual pull stations allow fires to be reported immediately so evacuation can begin. Audible alarms notify occupants whenever they need to evacuate the building.
  • In larger buildings or those with significant flammable materials, automatic fire sprinkler systems are absolutely essential. They release water instantly whenever fires are detected to control and extinguish them.
  • Portable multipurpose ABC fire extinguishers placed strategically throughout the workplace enable employees to respond quickly and attempt to extinguish small fires before they grow. Use the appropriate class extinguisher for the different types of fires that may ignite.
  • Fire blankets can smother small cooking fires in kitchen areas. Wall-mounted fire hoses allow trained employees to combat small fires.
  • Fire-resistant cabinets protect flammable materials and help limit fire spreads.

All systems and equipment must be well-maintained and tested on a schedule to confirm they will function as needed in an emergency.

Implement Extensive Fire Safety Training for All Staff

Comprehensive training of all employees should be among the highest priorities of any workplace fire safety program. Employees must be trained extensively on topics such as:

  • They must be constantly aware of the specific materials, equipment, and conditions within their workplace that pose fire risks.
  • The proper precautions, protective equipment, and handling procedures for safely working with any ignition sources, flammable liquids, or hazardous materials to prevent accidental fires.
  • Locations of fire extinguishers, hoses, manual pull stations, and first aid fire kits throughout the facility. Proper operation of this equipment should be demonstrated during training.
  • The designated emergency evacuation routes and exit locations must be used during a fire event.
  • How to activate fire alarm systems to notify others of an emergency and summon emergency responders if needed.
  • Who to notify or call in different fire emergency scenarios.
  • Assisting visitors, customers, or each other with safe and orderly evacuation.

Initial training should occur for all new employees as part of onboarding, along with annual refresher training for all staff.

Follow Good Housekeeping and Maintenance Practices to Reduce Fire Fuels

The organization and maintenance of workplace facilities have a very direct impact on day-to-day fire risks. Some important housekeeping best practices to incorporate into daily operations include:

  • Ensure orderly, clearly marked storage of all flammable materials in specially designed fire cabinets, hazardous material bins, or other UL-rated containers. Never store combustibles haphazardly around the workplace.
  • Prohibit accumulation of combustible waste materials, dust, fibers, and clutter that can fuel fires.
  • Keep all exits, hallways, escape routes, and fire doors free of storage, waste, or other obstructions that impede emergency egress.
  • Place metal lids on all containers used to deposit oily rags and regularly dispose of the contents.
  • Swiftly address and report faulty electrical systems, damaged cords, broken equipment, or overloaded circuits that pose ignition risks.

Making orderly, fire-preventive housekeeping and maintenance an everyday habit of managers and employees is key to reducing fire risks.

Have Detailed Fire Emergency Response and Evacuation Plans Ready

Every workplace must establish emergency response and evacuation plans describing exactly how to respond swiftly, safely, and effectively to extinguish fires and evacuate employees from the building. These detailed plans should include:

  • Who has primary responsibility for extinguishing small fires vs. sounding alarms and contacting emergency responders in more serious fire situations?
  • How to quickly activate fire alarms and notification systems to alert all employees in different facility areas or shifts.
  • Predetermined meeting points outside the building where all employees gather, and attendance can be accounted for after evacuation.
  • Contingencies and responsibilities if any mobility-impaired employees require evacuation assistance.
  • Authority structure for who makes decisions regarding emergency equipment shutdown or ordering full evacuation if needed.
  • Procedures for re-entry into facilities once fires are extinguished and buildings are declared safe.

A Proactive Approach to Fire Safety Saves Businesses and Lives

Fires pose an ever-present and grave risk to businesses that cannot be ignored. However, through proactively implementing these comprehensive workplace fire safety measures daily, companies can drastically reduce risks and be thoroughly prepared to respond quickly and effectively if a fire does occur. Protecting your employees, customers, and facilities requires making fire safety and prevention an essential daily priority. Be sure to schedule your next professional fire extinguisher service and inspection. Being vigilant and prepared makes your workplace exponentially safer for everyone.