Did you know there were nearly 500,000 structure fires in 2017? Occupational fires are devastating an have the potential to result in fatalities and massive amounts of property loss. The most effective action for preventing fires is by thoroughly assessing your workplace to identify and remedy fire hazards.
- Electrical Hazards: NFPA estimates electrical distribution and lighting equipment as the leading cause of structure fires in industrial properties. Common electrical issues that can lead to fire hazards include overloaded circuits, blocked electrical panels, damaged extension cords, and even personal space heaters. Electrical equipment should be maintained and tested on a regular basis to prevent faulty or inconsistent equipment. Additionally, workers should periodically check power cords for frays and ensure outlets are being utilized safely.
- Dust: Workplace fires and explosions are commonly caused by an accumulation of combustible dust. A dust explosion must have the following five elements: combustible dust, an ignition source, oxygen in the air, the dispersion of dust particles, and confinement of the dust cloud. Combustible dust can be a hazard in a number of industries and facilities will need to identify that processes use or produce combustible dusts, where dust may build up, how dust may be dispersed, and potential ignition sources.
- Human Error: Human error is a fire hazard that can never be completely eliminated but with the right training and resources it can be avoided. It is also important to address negligence, employees not following established safety procedures.
- Flammable Liquids: As the name implies, these liquids can be easily be ignited and if improperly stored may spontaneously combust or explode. The safety data sheet of flammable liquids or chemicals will list not only storage and handling information, but also any special precautions workers may need to take to prevent a fire hazard.
- Clutter: Clutter is an often-overlooked hazard but is an easy one to remedy. Cluttered workspaces easily increase the risk of fires while hiding a bevy of other safety hazards. Keep the facility consistently clean by adopting organizational methods such as 5S.
Identifying the major fire hazards in the facility is the first step in establishing a fire prevention plan. When taking note of present hazards, there should be detailed instructions for how the hazard could ignite, how it should be stored, and what fire protection is necessary for working with the hazard.