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Fire Safety in the Workplace

Fire safety in the workplace is important business. Legislation, regulations and standards require employers to provide proper exits, fire fighting equipment, emergency plans and employee training to prevent fire deaths and injuries in the workplace.
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Fire safety in the workplace is important business. Legislation, regulations and standards require employers to provide proper exits, fire fighting equipment, emergency plans and employee training to prevent fire deaths and injuries in the workplace.

Buildings and Exits

  • Each workplace building must have at least two means of escape remote from each other to be used in a fire emergency
  • Fire doors must not be blocked or locked to prevent emergency use when workers are within the buildings
  • Delayed opening of fire doors is permitted when an approved alarm system is integrated into the fire door design according to specific legislation in your area
  • Exit routes from buildings must be clear and free of obstructions and properly marked with signs designating exits from the building.

Portable Fire Extinguishers

  • Each workplace must have a full complement of the proper type of fire extinguisher for the fire hazards present according to specific legislation in your area
  • Employees expected or anticipated to use fire extinguishers must be instructed on the hazards of fighting fire, how to properly operate the available fire extinguishers and what procedures to follow in alerting others to the fire emergency
  • Only approved fire extinguishers are permitted to be used in workplaces and they must be kept in good operating condition (proper maintenance and inspection of this equipment is required of each employer).

Fire Emergency Evacuation Planning

  • Employers need to have a written emergency action plan for evacuation of employees that describes the routes to use and procedures to be followed by employees
  • Procedures for accounting for all evacuated employees must be part of the plan and the written plan must be available for employee review
  • Where needed, special procedures for helping physically impaired employees must be addressed in the plan; also, the plan must include procedures for those employees who must remain behind temporarily to shut down critical plant equipment before they evacuate
  • The preferred means of alerting employees to a fire emergency must be part of the plan and an employee alarm system must be available throughout the workplace complex and used for emergency alerting for evacuation
  • The alarm system may be voice communication or sound signals such as bells, whistles or horns. Employees must know the evacuation signal.

Medical Emergencies and First Aid

  • A medical emergency is an injury or illness that poses an immediate threat to a person’s health or life which requires help from a paramedic, doctor or hospital
  • In many cases a workplace is not near (within 4 minutes) a doctor’s surgery, clinic or hospital therefore it is important and in some operations a requirement, to have one or more persons trained in first aid
  • Prompt, properly administered first aid care can mean the difference between life and death, rapid versus prolonged recovery and temporary versus permanent disability
  • First aid is a series of simple, life-saving medical procedures that a non-medical person can be trained to perform in medical emergency situations, before the intervention of emergency medical technicians or doctors
  • A person not properly trained in first aid is advised not to attempt any first aid in serious medical emergencies as wrong procedures can do more harm than good.

As part of an overall workplace health and safety program a business should have a first aid program. Circumstances and hazards in each workplace should determine program details.

Fire Safety – Factors to Consider:

  • Location and availability of medical facilities or emergency services, including response time for external services (should be no more than 4 minutes for life-threatening situations in the absence of onsite help)
  • Accessibility of medical personnel to consult on occupational health issues
  • Types of accidents that could reasonably occur in the workplace
  • Number and location of staff and clients on the site
  • Industry or government requirements
  • The level of first aid training employees should receive and which employees should be trained
  • The first aid supplies that should be available, determined with the help of an occupational health professional.

Even if a workplace is in ‘near proximity’ (4 minutes or less) to external emergency services, it is suggested that companies have employees trained in first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

An important aspect of training is learning to make correct decisions during an emergency, including not rendering aid beyond one’s training. First aid training organisations suggest that companies hold drills at least once a year for first aid personnel.

© CQUniversity 2021
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