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We witnessed in early August the horrific explosions in Beirut that killed at least 200 people with dozens more missing, injured 6000 people, has left 300,000 people homeless and had an estimate $10-$15 billion in damages. The blast is linked to 2700 tons of ammonium nitrate that was stored in the port without proper safety measures for six years. This should be a wake-up call at just how vulnerable your business could be.

National Fire Prevention Week, which is the second week in October, is a great time to review your company’s safety rules around fire safety. In most cases, workplace fires are caused by chemical interactions, sparks and human error of not paying attention to safety labels and the surrounding items in the work area. While some situations may not be in your control – for example, wildfires or arson – most are with some extra precautions.

Here are some ideas to keep in mind when preparing a fire safety plan:
• Identify fire risks, which can include but are not limited to cooking appliances, electrical wiring, overloaded power strips, heating appliances, arson, smoking materials -and if you work with chemicals or have chemicals in your workplace
• Assign at least one person or a team of people to oversee fire safety – tasks should include implementing and improving effective emergency procedures and having a fire safety checklist, conducting workplace walkthroughs to assess fire hazards and document/communicate those existing hazards to management, educate employees, and execute regular fire drills
• Pay particular attention to areas in the workplace that are considered fire prone, which are usually the kitchen area, common areas, and ceiling or attic areas – and for the space, make sure you have the right amount of fire extinguishers and smoke and carbon monoxide detectors (check them regularly to make sure they are in good shape)
• Take into account what your specific industry’s needs and special circumstances are when it comes to fire safety
• OSHA requires that employers do whatever is within their power to keep their employees safe, and educating your employees should always be a priority, so make sure you follow OSHA’s fire safety standards

With some extra precautions and proper protocol when it comes to fire safety and basic emergency responses, businesses can lessen the likelihood of a workplace fire.

The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 claimed the lives of approximately 300 people, destroyed over 3 square miles of property, and left more than 100,000 people homeless. Why the quick history lesson? The Fire Marshall’s Association of North America decided in 1911 to make the Great Chicago Fire anniversary a way to promote fire safety and help prevent future tragic events from occurring. This year’s Fire Prevention Week is October 6-12, and its theme is “Not Every Hero Wears a Cap. Plan and Practice Your Escape!” Employers can use this week to focus on fire safety at the workplace and at home.

In a typical home fire, you may have as little as 1-2 minutes to escape safely from the time the smoke alarm sounds. It’s not a lot of time, but with careful planning and practicing for such an event, it will save lives – at home and at work. Employers can help educate and train their staff on fire safety by using these helpful tips:
• Update signage as necessary – make sure fire escapes are well-marked and routes are posted throughout the facility.
• Make sure fire extinguishers are readily accessible and fully functioning. A fire extinguisher may go years without being used, so make sure fire extinguishers are tested on a regular basis.
• Make sure dangerous equipment or flammable materials are labeled (bilingual signage as well, if possible).
• Practice workplace fire drills on a regular basis and provide training, emails and pamphlets detailing safe fire practices and procedures.
• Encourage or offer incentives for completing online training courses or attending classes.
• Offer to cover training for certification trainings through NFPA, which include such trainings as electrical safety, fire protection, fire inspector and fire plan examiner.
• Provide specific training by inviting certified professionals to speak with employees or send your employees to relevant seminars.
For work and home fire safety, it’s really about the planning:
• Plan your escape route – map your home or workplace and show all available exits from rooms
• Test all smoke alarms on a regular basis – working smoke detectors cut the risk of dying in a home fire by half, and many workplace smoke detector systems can send out an automatic notification to the fire department if left unchecked after a certain amount of time.
• Choose an outside meeting place that is always stationary, like a tree, a building, a parking lot
• Make sure the plan is available to everyone – for the workplace, included in the employee handbook is a good place
• Practice fire drills – for the home, it is recommended to practice twice a year. For the workplace, it might be best to do it more often to train new employees

Employers are responsible for helping to ensure their workplace remains safe. Taking advantage of Fire Prevention Week to heighten the awareness of fire safety is a great way to educate your staff and to keep your employees safe.

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