Fire Safety Training
Fire safety training at work is everyone’s business. Each year in the United States, there are between 70,000 and 80,000 workplace fires. Of these, over 5,000 result in injury and 200 end in death. Fortunately, most workplace fires can be prevented — only 15%t of them are a result of circumstances outside of human control.
The key is training, knowledge, and preventative measures. It’s important that businesses establish and implement fire safety programs and that all employees are involved. Fire safety training kits should cover all vital elements such as hazard recognition, prevention, and response. Use these fire safety basics to get you started.
Hazard Recognition and Prevention
First of all in order to eliminate fire hazards, you have to know what to look for. Take the time to perform a workplace hazard assessment where you can search for and document known hazards. Once hazards have been identified, you’ll then be able to either control them if they are unavoidable or eliminate them altogether. Always consider the following:
- Practice good housekeeping. Keep work areas free of clutter and combustible waste.
- Ensure any heat-producing equipment (including office equipment like copiers or coffee makers) are kept away from materials that could burn.
- 39% of workplace fires are electrical. Ensure electrical cords are in good condition. Remove equipment from service if wires are found exposed or damaged until they have been repaired or replaced.
- Check that power outlets are not overloaded and that outlets and extension cords are capable of handling the voltage of connected equipment.
- Be on the lookout for equipment that overheats or gives off a burning odor.
- When plugging equipment into an outlet, the plug should correspond with the outlet; that is to say, do not plug a two-prong plug into a three-slot outlet.
- Store flammable work materials and chemicals in a safe location away from any ignition sources.
- Make sure there are unobstructed emergency exits and escape routes. Routes and evacuation instructions should be posted in locations visible to employees on every floor.
- Inspect fire response equipment regularly, including smoke detectors, fire alarms, and fire extinguishers. Items not in working order need to be replaced right away.
- Fire extinguishers must be current on their inspections. Tags will indicate the most recent inspection.
- Communicate to all employees the hazards of smoking on site. Designate smoking areas outside and away from building entrances.
- Part of a preventative strategy includes written and practiced evacuation procedures. Your business should conduct regular fire drills where alarm recognition, safe evacuation, designated meeting location, and roll calls are performed. Use drills as an opportunity to identify flaws in your program and make any necessary changes.
If you see a fire break out, immediately sound the nearest alarm to alert other employees in the building and then determine your next step.
If the fire is small and controllable and you are trained in the use of a fire extinguisher, you may attempt to extinguish the fire. Be sure to leave yourself a clear escape route and know how to recognize when the fire grows out of your control. Instruct a nearby employee to dial 911 if your alarm system is not equipped to automatically communicate with local emergency responders.
If it’s clear the fire cannot be controlled by a fire extinguisher, evacuate immediately. Do not wait around or attempt to manage the fire on your own. Follow established evacuation procedures and assist fellow employees along the way.
Quick Tips to Improve Safety During Fire Response
Choose the correct fire extinguisher for the job. Certain fire extinguishers are designed to extinguish particular types of fires. For example, an extinguisher designed to put out grease fires is not effective against fires caused by ordinary combustibles such as paper and cardboard.
While nothing is an equal substitute for training on and familiarization with the use of fire extinguishers, the basics can be remembered with one simple acronym: PASS.
- P: Pull the pin
- A: Aim the nozzle at the base of the fire where the source is, not at the flames themselves
- S: Squeeze the handle
- S: Sweep the nozzle back and forth from left to right until the fire has been extinguished
When evacuating the building, close doors behind you. This will help limit the spread of fire and smoke throughout the building.
Never Use an Elevator During a Fire
Especially relevant for three reasons:
- Depending on the severity of the fire, electrical damage may shut elevators down mid-transit
- Elevator shafts may fill up with smoke
- Emergency responders and firefighters may need access to the elevators to address fires on upper levels.
Furthermore, all employees should be trained in basic first aid skills. After evacuation, attend to any employees who may have been injured either by the flames or smoke inhalation while you wait for emergency responders.
PASS: When using a fire extinguisher, follow this common acronym to maximize its effectiveness.
•Pull the pin.
•Aim at the base of the fire (often, users are tempted to spray the fire itself instead of its fuel source).
•Squeeze the handle.
•Sweep from side to side.
Fire extinguishers are composed of a variety of materials depending on the type of fire they are designed to eliminate. All extinguishers will contain contents under high pressure.
These types of extinguishers contain dry chemicals, ordinarily a bicarbonate derivative (such as sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), in foam or powder form. The purpose is to smother the fire source with a chemical that breaks down into carbon dioxide. CO2 removes and/or displaces oxygen, which is the active fuel behind a fire. Dry chemical extinguishers are generally red in color and have a pressure gauge at the top near the lever.
Water-type extinguishers contain water under air pressure. They are not always the most desirable option, such as in the event of an electrical fire where water would escalate the situation. The cylinder of the extinguisher is often recognizable by being silver in color.
Highly-pressurized carbon dioxide. Under such high pressure, it is released at a very low temperature, addressing the fire by not only displacing the oxygen but freezing temperatures. You may typically recognize a CO2 extinguisher by a horn at the end of the hose and a lack of pressure gauge. Fire extinguishers are required by law to display clear rating labels on the cylinder as well as inspection tags which must reflect a maintenance inspection date on an annual (at minimum) basis.
Not all fire extinguishers are manufactured exactly alike. Variations may include operating instructions or distance the user should stand from the fire when dispersing contents. Required cylinder labeling will inform you of the specifics.
3 Classifications of Burns
1st Degree burns are identified by redness of skin and are generally uncomfortable. 1st Degree burns are generally caused by overexposure to the sun, scalding by moderately hot water, or touching hot material.
2nd Degree burns are generally identified by blistering and extreme redness of skin.
3rd Degree burns may cause charring, whiteness, and permanent discoloration of skin. 3rd Degree burns can be considered life threatening.
First Aid for Burns
Burns are common injuries at the workplace daily. Several different things can cause burns, and can result in varying levels of injury. Identifying the type and severity of the burn is the first step to administering first aid. When treating a burn, follow these steps:
Assess the Situation
- Determine the cause of the injury and eliminate any hazards that may affect you or the victim
- Put on any necessary PPE, such as latex gloves for protection from bloodborne pathogens
- If the victim isn’t in any danger, don’t move them
- Treat life-threatening situations first, such as severe bleeding, cardiac arrest, or if the victim has stopped breathing
- Don’t become a victim yourself; leave rescue to trained personnel
Call For Help
If you are alone, treat any life threatening injuries first, and then go for help. If you are not alone, send someone for help immediately.
Treating Fire Burns
Fires generally cause second and third degree burns. Second degree burns show redness, swelling, and blistering. Third degree burns have a white or charred appearance. Treat 2nd and 3rd degree burns as follows:
- Cover all burned skin with a dry, sterile dressing or cloth
- Elevate the burned arm or leg above the heart to reduce pain
- Don’t attempt to remove any clothing or jewelry that may be melted to the skin
- Don’t attempt to “pull apart” fingers that may be fused together
- Seek immediate Emergency Medical attention
Contact with electricity usually results in second and third degree burns. If someone has been burned by electricity, take the following steps:
- Make sure that all electrical current has been turned off
- Check for breathing and do CPR if necessary
- Cover all burned skin with a dry, sterile dressing or cloth
- Elevate the burned limb above the level of the heart to reduce pain and relieve shock
Chemical burns often cause damage long after the chemical has made contact with the skin.
If the victim’s eyes have been splashed with a chemical, flush the eyes with water until medical personnel arrive.
Read the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) for proper first aid treatment, and when appropriate, rinse with water.
If appropriate, seek Emergency Medical attention (always take the Safety Data Sheet and chemical with you).
In conclusion, serious burns of any type cause nerve damage that disables the healing process. To help reduce future complications, always take extra care to avoid contaminating a burn that could result in an infection. Always remember, fires are nearly always avoidable. Knowledge, training, and a solid fire safety training topics can save you and your company from injuries, death, and property damage.