The three most common ways office fires start are cooking equipment, electrical, and heating equipment. Fourth in line, at 10% of all office fires, are (surprisingly) fires started intentionally.
So aside from not setting a fire yourself at work, here are some things to do to prevent office fires and keep you and your coworkers safe.
Don’t Overload Power Strips
Just because your power strip has eight outlets, doesn’t mean you should use all eight, depending on what you’re plugging in. Things like appliances in the break room should absolutely not be sharing a power strip. Computers, desk fans, phone chargers don’t draw a ton of power alone, but be wary when plugging them all in to the same strip. Also, check your power strip’s cords from time to time to check for any fraying or breakage. Also check the outlets themselves, if any have blown out you may notice some slight discoloration and it is time to replace it, don’t risk it being a fire hazard.
Store Hazardous Materials Appropriately
When working in industries that use or store hazardous materials, workers must be conscious of storing these properly. Flammable materials must be labeled and stored properly, and all employees must know where they are located and how to handle them.
Check for Frayed Wires
Any exposed or frayed wires should be disposed of and replaced immediately. If you are unable to do so on your own, alert the proper team in your office building to replace them.
Only Smoke in Designated Areas
If your office building has designated smoking areas, make sure you and your coworkers adhere to those marked zones. They are they for many reasons, and one is to avoid a hazard and keep others safe. Dispose of cigarette butts appropriately, and make sure they are OUT before being put into any cigarette disposal devices.
Keep Appliances Clean
Food left in appliances can catch fire or smoke if left time after time without cleaning. Your office should create a sign-up sheet or some system that ensures the appliances get cleaned regularly including microwaves, toasters, and toaster ovens. Any containers or papers/paper towels should be removed from the microwave, don’t leave any remnants behind that could catch fire or melt.
Restrict Use of Hot Plates and Toaster Ovens
To make a truly fire-safe break room, some offices restrict or ban use of hot plates and toaster ovens. Toaster ovens left unattended can smoke and catch fire when anything drips down to the bottom. These are highly hazardous appliances and should be used with caution and with supervision. These appliances especially need to be kept clean, and plugged in to their own, surge-protected outlets.
NO FOIL IN THE MICROWAVE
Everyone should know this, but still, DON’T DO IT. Watch out for to-go containers that come in boxes, they can sometimes have staples on the side that may be hard to notice, but can spark if put in the microwave.
Don’t Overstuff Trash Cans
A bin of paper can be one of the biggest fire hazards in the office. If a wire were to spark, and the nearby trash can is full of paper and plastic, it can go up in a matter of seconds. If your office building cleans out the trash cans each night, that’s good – it can help keep those from getting overstuffed.
Keep and Maintain Smoke Detectors in Break Rooms
The break room is a major point of fire hazards in the office and should have smoke detectors closest to the point of hazard. These should be checked regularly, and have back up batteries.
Watch for Suspicious Behavior
As stated above, 10% of all office fires are started by arsonists. Watch for any suspicious behavior in coworkers and especially any coworkers who have been fired or asked to leave under unfortunate circumstances. Collect all security access keys before employees leave for their last day. If anyone is acting strangely or angrily, have security escort them out.
Know the Locations of Extinguishers and Fire Alarms
After all actions are taken to fire-proof the office, tell people how to avoid fire hazards. The first line of defense when a fire happens is to know the emergency routes, how to pull the fire alarms, and where to find the extinguishers. In the event of an emergency, your office should have a laid-out escape plan. Using the extinguisher should only ever be done if it is safe to do so, and if necessary to allow escape. Ensuring everyone gets out of the building safely should be first priority.
First Response Safety Trainers offers fire extinguisher training and first aid that can help in the event of a fire or emergency in your office. Contact us to schedule an on-site and hands-on fire extinguisher training session.