Responsible commercial sites make for safe employees and happy firefighters. Read this guide to keep everybody safe and smiling!
- All commercial sites are required by law to have fire prevention, containment, and evacuation procedures in place
- Fire safety plans can vary based on site layout and service provided, but every plan has basic pillars in common
- Educating employees on workplace electrical safety can dramatically reduce fire risk
As Florida recovers from the windy, watery wrath of Hurricane Ian, it’s easy to forget how many fires come hot on the heels of such disasters. Outdoors, there’s an increased risk of blazes due to warmer daytime temperatures, lower humidity, and an abundance of flammable debris strewn around. Indoors, the chance of businesses going up in smoke also increases as floods and power surges wreak havoc on interior and exterior electrical components.
Hurricanes aside, every company should have fire safety protocols in place for year-round peace of mind. Bigger commercial complexes face greater fire risks than smaller sites. They also hold more employees and visitors who are in potential danger when there’s no safety plan. Here are the basics of commercial fire safety courtesy of your power pros at UES!
Preparation is a responsibility, not a choice
Having no safety measures in place isn’t just asking for trouble from Mother Nature – you’re also risking steep fines and possible shutdown from regulatory agencies. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has strict guidelines that commercial sites must follow to comply with fire safety regulations.
For example, commercial sites with more than 10 employees must have a written fire prevention plan that’s kept on site, accessible at all times, and regularly updated to ensure emergency contact numbers are correct.
The plan must be reviewed with all new employees, who must be informed of every possible fire hazard they will face while on that commercial site. The particulars of these plans can vary depending on the commercial site’s layout, location, and professional purpose. Here are the pillars they should all include.
The essential elements of fire safety and prevention
At the very least, your commercial fire safety plan must include the following:
- A list of every possible fire hazard
- Proper storage and handling guidelines for flammable and combustible materials and waste
- The necessary equipment to control each fire hazard (correct extinguishers, protective gear, breathing apparatus)
- Regular maintenance of safeguards installed on heat-producing equipment
- Well-lit evacuation routes
- Regular maintenance of employee alarm systems, fire detection systems, and fixed or portable extinguishers
How many fire extinguishers should a commercial site have? It depends on how much of a fire hazard it is. This classification comes from a professional fire inspection, a very thorough process, as this City of Orlando example shows. Your fire inspector will be able to recommend the correct number and type of extinguishers for your site.
Your commercial site should have a generator as a commonsense measure (here’s how to choose the right one for your site), but this can also become a fire hazard if you don’t care for it correctly. Make safe generator use a priority when drafting your fire prevention plan!
All employees can help with fire prevention and awareness, but some will be specially designated. The names of all employees with specific fire safety roles should be clearly posted, along with a list of their duties and how to contact them. Not every fire can be contained by staff, so creating an evacuation plan comes next.
Make evacuation procedures easy to read and simple to follow
OSHA has an interactive example that shows how to create a solid plan. Written evacuation plans should also be drafted for distribution and posting. These must include clearly defined situations where evacuation is necessary or when sheltering in place is best. Designated roles must be assigned as to who can call for an evacuation and contact emergency services.
Drills for evacuation routes and exits should be done at least twice a year, with specific personnel appointed to supervise other employees and visitors during an evacuation. If the situation allows, staff should also be assigned to shut down essential systems before evacuation. A set location for all evacuees to meet up in and be accounted for is the last step.
Make sure you have a second person in line for all designated fire plan roles, as the primary may not be there when an incident occurs. Commercial fire safety in even the most complex offices becomes much easier when you review OSHA’s comprehensive resources, so make them required reading. Your people, property, and profit margin will thank you!
Putting a fire safety plan into practice
Regular maintenance of your electrical system is key to minimizing your commercial fire risk. We recommend starting with a commercial electrical inspection that will expose any liabilities your site may have from top to bottom. These are particularly important if your business has just moved to new premises.
The electrical inspector’s findings can then be used for two things. First, electrical professionals – that’s us – can use them as a reference point to make any necessary repairs or adjustments. Second, you can keep them as proof that you’re following fire codes (and they’re a tremendous help if you ever need to file a fire insurance claim).
Next come your employees, who are either your greatest asset or biggest liability when it comes to fires. Educate them on the basics of workplace electrical safety so they don’t develop any bad little habits that could lead to big trouble. A few simple practices like not overloading power strips, looking out for leaks near any electrical equipment, and replacing worn-out wire casings can be literal life savers.
We’re here to help you stay fire safe
Universal Electrical Services has decades of experience helping customers throughout Florida create the safest, most efficient electrical environments in commercial sites across seventeen industries. Visit our contact page to ask questions or arrange a free service quote!