Originally posted October 31, 2013 by Chris Kilbourne on safetydailyadvisor.blr.com
Not only do your employees need to know how to respond to workplace fires, they also have to understand how to help prevent them. That’s a lot of information to communicate about fire safety, and no better time than the present.
All employees should know the essentials for responding effectively in the event of a fire. For example, when they hear a fire alarm, they should:
- Evacuate immediately using their assigned evacuation route. If that route is blocked, they should use their alternate.
- Close doors behind them as they leave.
- Help others evacuate if they can do so safely.
- If they encounter smoke, crawl low under the smoke.
- Outside the building, move away from exits.
- Go directly to their assigned assembly area and report to the person who is taking a head count.
- Remain outside until they are told it is safe to reenter the building.
If employees discover a fire, they should:
- Activate the nearest fire alarm.
- Call 911—don’t assume that someone else has already done this.
- Evacuate the building.
If they are unable to get out of the building, they should:
- Create an area of refuge in a room with windows, and use wet cloth to seal cracks under doors and seal vents against smoke.
- Not break windows. They can open the window just a crack if they need air.
- Stay low under smoke, and cover their nose and mouth with a wet cloth.
- Signal for help by using a phone or hanging something in the window.
If you expect employees to use fire extinguishers, make sure they’re properly trained. Make sure they know which extinguisher to use for the different types of fires and they should also be trained to use a fire extinguisher properly:
Pull the pin on the extinguisher.
Aim at the base of the fire.
Squeeze the handle to release the extinguishing agent.
Sweep back and forth until the fire goes out.
At the same time you teach employees how to use an extinguisher, make sure they know when to use one and when not to. Portable fire extinguishers are made for small fires only. Employees should understand that if a fire is big or spreading, they should not try to fight it but instead call 911, activate the fire alarm, and evacuate the building.
Of course, preventing workplace fires is always better than fighting them. So don’t forget to teach your employees some basic fire prevention strategies, too. For example:
- Keep a clean work area, and don’t allow trash and other combustible materials to collect.
- Take proper precautions with flammable substances, always using and storing them safely.
- Use and maintain electrical equipment properly, and report any problems immediately.
- Avoid exposing flammable and combustible materials to ignition sources.
- Don’t mix chemicals that could react or store them near one another.