In recognition of National Fire Prevention Month (October), Louisiana Workers’ Compensation Corporation (LWCC) is reminding employers to educate their employees about fire safety in the workplace.
The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) reports that workplace fires and explosions kill 200 workers and injure more than 5,000 workers each year.
On average, 7,000 fires per year occur in office buildings, putting people out of work and greatly impacting their lives and livelihoods. The major causes of fires in the workplace are misuse of electrical equipment or electrical failure (such as overloading fuses), placing combustible materials near heat sources, using equipment with frayed cords or bent prongs, and improperly storing flammable materials.
“There are many steps that employers can take to prevent fires in the workplace,” says Mike Dileo, vice president of operations for LWCC. “Employers can start by implementing a fire evacuation plan and making sure employees practice these procedures periodically throughout the year so that everyone knows exactly what to do in case of a fire emergency.”
Among the most important steps of any workplace fire evacuation plan are making sure exit routes are properly marked and free of obstacles, assuring that fire extinguishers are available and in proper working order and that employees know how to use them, and that batteries in smoke detectors are changed regularly.
“Fires not only destroy workplaces, they destroy jobs,” says Dileo. “Whether you’re in a factory or in an office, it is important to recognize and eliminate fire risks. As winter nears, we hope that the many messages employees hear about fire prevention in the home will carry over into the workplace.”
Your fire safety responsibilities
The first step in surviving a workplace fire is being adequately prepared for a fire and then responding appropriately. This takes planning and practice.
Before a fire occurs:
–Recognize and learn to respond immediately to the sound of the fire alarm.
–Learn the location of at least two exits from all work areas.
–Always use the stairs to exit multi-story buildings. Never use an elevator.
–Count the doors or workstations between where you work and the nearest exit. You may have to escape in the dark.
–Know the location of the nearest fire alarm and fire extinguisher and learn how to use them.
–Post the fire department’s emergency number by your phone.
–If you have a disability that will slow your escape, ask your supervisor to include your needs in evacuation plans.
–Learn the location of your designated safe meeting place.
–Actively participate in all fire drills as if your life depends on it.
In the event of a fire:
–Sound the alarm and call the fire department, even if the fire is small.
–Leave quickly. Close doors as you go to contain the fire and smoke.
–If smoke builds, crawl on your knees and cover your face with a wet rag, if available.
–Escape using the stairs. Heat from a fire can cause elevators to malfunction.
–Follow fire and security personnel instructions. Once outside, move away from the building, out of the firefighters’ way.
For more fire safety information, including topics such as Planning An Effective Evacuation Procedure, Extinguishing Fire Hazards, and Quick Tips from the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), visit LWCC’s Web site at www.lwcc.com.