Safety Week 2016: Fire Safety

May 4, 2016

Fire safety is a frequent topic of discussion, from jobsites and within commercial office buildings, to home and school evacuation plans. Much of this discussion focuses on the importance of being prepared on how to react to a fire, but what can be done to prevent fires in the first place?

The leading causes of industrial fires are electrical failure or the misuse of electrical equipment. Following that are risks associated with friction, foreign substances, and open flames. Many of those issues can also be tied to the home, as more and more homeowners utilize heavy equipment such as power washers, leaf and snow blowers, table and chain saws, propane grills, and emergency generators around the house. Employees can take many steps to combat these hazards on the job and at home so that our extinguishers and evacuation plans don’t have to be used.

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), six fires in apartment complexes under construction were among the largest fires in the country in 2014 and led to damages of more than $176 million. Causes of these fires were as varied as drywall heaters placed too close to flammable materials to grinding work done too close to woodwork and heat from welding and cutting operations. That same year, according to NFPA, fires killed six construction workers and injured 120 more.

Follow these guidelines to help mitigate fire risks:

  • Be careful not to overload electrical circuits.
  • Look for and refrain from using frayed electrical cords or tools that are damaged or spark.
  • Keep mechanical equipment properly lubricated to avoid excessive friction.
  • Keep spark arrestors on exhausts.
  • Keep combustible materials in a safe area.
  • Keep flammables and any ignition sources (furnace, stove, electrical equipment, lit cigarettes) far apart. Keep in mind that fumes from paint and solvents can drift out a considerable distance from their origins.
  • Dispose of flammable waste and scrap in metal containers.
  • Never dispose of flammable liquids by pouring them down the drain.
  • Maintain good housekeeping to ensure stray materials, paper, and wrappers aren’t scattered around your site or can blow into a nearby site.

Even when these rules are followed, fires may still occur. How an individual reacts to fire may help minimize financial and material loss as well as save lives. Understand the difference between types of fire extinguishers (such as those used for general fires versus those for oil or fat-fueled kitchen fires). Develop an Emergency Action Plan (EAP) and review/rehearse it regularly. Finally, always review and commit to memory safe fire egress areas when working in or entering an unfamiliar space.