Fires are destructive and are commonly occurring events that can happen unexpectedly and cause a great deal of personal and financial loss, especially in industrial areas and construction sites. Unfortunately, people tend to shrug off fire safety, and prevention tips or their significance becomes clearer once it’s too late.
All it takes is one accident or short circuit to spread fire, and engulf your entire workspace within minutes, putting you and your workers in danger. The heat and flames from the fire threaten the lives of everyone in its path. So, having basic fire safety measures put in place can make a difference between life and death.
Research has shown that about 2% of deaths at workplaces occur due to fire-related incidents, and around 50,000+ injuries due to the same cause. There’s no doubt that fire is an extremely dangerous substance, especially in construction sites and factories where workers are surrounded by all kinds of heavy machinery, wires, and chemicals that are hazardous and must not be exposed to any form of fire in any capacity.
But even with all of these dangerous hazards, factory and construction workers tend to become too non-serious about fire and don’t really care about wearing the right workplace protection equipment to keep themselves safe from fire-related injuries.
Awareness about fire safety and practicing prevention methods can keep you and the people around you fire-free. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires employers to implement fire protection and prevention programs in the workplace. Employers should train workers about fire hazards and what to do in a fire emergency. Trained workers will better be able to escape the danger and use the right equipment for putting out a fire.
The presence of three elements: heat or an ignition source, fuel, and oxygen, starts a chemical reaction called fire. For a fire to ignite or continue to burn, the above elements must combine in a precise way. If any of the elements is absent or is removed, fire will not start, or it will extinguish.
If a job site has more than 5 gallons of flammable, or 5 pounds of flammable gas, then as per OSHA requirements, there should be a minimum rated 10B fire extinguisher, within a 50 feet radius. These extinguishers should be regularly inspected and maintained fully charged.
How to Use a Fire Extinguisher?
When using a fire extinguisher, a trained worker must be able to employ the “PASS” system.
P – Pull the pin on the extinguisher
A – Aim at the base
S – Squeeze the handle
S – Sweep at the fire, moving from side to side
And in case a fire is not extinguished using one full extinguisher, then employees should be instructed to evacuate the site and let the fire department handle the situation. Every workplace must have a suitably located exit door free from obstruction to enable everyone to get out of the facility as quickly as possible.
Fire prevention requires segregating three fire-causing elements: heat, fuel, and oxygen. To achieve this, the goal should be:
· To enforce no smoking signs around flammable liquids and gases.
· Work involving torch-applied material must have fire-watch inspections conducted for at least two hours after the work has been completed, and the last torch has been turned off.
· Proper storage of flammable and combustible liquids.
· Approved and closed containers should be used for the storage of flammable liquids.
· When pouring inflammable liquids from one container to another, static electricity must be dissipated, to avoid causing any chemical reaction.
· To dissipate static electricity; the container must be bonded together and grounded.
· Flammable liquids/gasses must be kept away from any spark or flame involving operations.
· Fueling areas at job sites must have a 20BC-rated fire extinguisher within 75 feet of each pump.
· To store flammable liquid indoors, have safety cabinets labeled as “Flammable – Keep Fire Away. And do not store more than 25 gallons indoors.
· If storing flammable liquids outside, do not exceed more than 60 gallons.
· A safety cabinet should not exceed the limit of 120 gallons of combustible liquids inside it. And in one room, there should not be more than three safety cabinets.
· OSHA requires installing an alarm system to alert workers on the site. They are critical early warning systems to prevent fire and aid in the safe escape of everyone in the dangerous facility.
While fire safety and preventive measures seem part of common sense, we may overlook them while busy with our daily chores. Fires are highly devastating but also preventable. Basic precautions can help you save tons for your factory and your employees. By practicing these measures, you can make your place a safe place to work.