Fires don’t only happen in factories or outdoor worksites. According to EHS today, more than half of office fires are due to faulty electrical equipment, such as old heaters or lighting fixtures. Appliances also can catch ablaze. For example, cooking devices like microwave ovens or toasters can wear out and become fire hazards.
The property damage from a burned office can be expensive. Last year, $112 million was spent on repairing buildings that had caught fire.
Advice for preventing and controlling fires
One way to avoid blazes is to keep all of the break room kitchen equipment updated and use it safely. About 29% of fires happen because of someone cooking something, according to EHS Today, citing information from the National Fire Protection Association. A combined 23% of fires occur from the heating or electrical system breaking down, so employers may want to regularly inspect these systems to ensure they are code compliant.
Fire extinguishers are handy for putting out small emergency fires. Extinguishers, differentiated by class A, B, C, D and K, are engineered to fight common types of fires. Some extinguishers can work for multiple classes. Each class represents a different hazard. For example, class C is an electrical fire. These require a type of extinguisher that doesn’t have water, since the water might increase the chance of an electric shock. Class K is a fire from cooking oil, which requires an ABC or BC fire extinguisher. Once again, water could be dangerous because it would splatter the oil, spreading the flames.
Preventing burnable dust
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has several best practices for fire prevention, with most focused on fires that can happen inside a factory. For example, companies would do well to mitigate the risk of building up too much combustible dust.
Dust fires typically start from an initial explosion, and the shockwave disburses dust particles into the air. The fire from the first explosion ignites the dust, causing a secondary explosion. Often the air itself is on fire during a second explosion, which is more dangerous than a primary fire that only touches burnable surfaces.
OSHA best practices call for identifying items that can burn when finely divided into particulate matter, along with discovering factory processes that may cause spontaneous dust explosions. Additionally, OSHA advises employers to look for areas where combustible dust could accumulate without anyone knowing, such as air ducts.
OSHA guidelines for fire sprinklers
Fire sprinklers are an OSHA requirement. The best kinds can detect fires automatically from heat in the air and from smoke. Sprinkler types can vary depending on what substance is used to put out the fire, such as water or a chemical that is designed to put down fires without causing risk of electrocution or other accidents.
OSHA recommends employers take time to check any kind of heat-producing equipment to ensure it is safe, plus keep workers informed about the different ways that fires can start.
Keeping work areas clean and well organized also may help prevent flammable objects like papers from burning in the event of an office fire.