Every year, fire hazards cause devastating damages to workplaces, resulting in loss of properties and bodily harm. According to Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF), there were 506 reported fire incidents in commercial and industrial premises in Singapore in 2016. Unfortunately, most of these incidents have been discovered to be preventable.
Fire protection is a collective responsibility. From the first worker that opens the workplace to the last person to leave, fire safety rules should be adhered to by everyone. A workplace may have a good fire protection system in place, but this does not dismiss the fact that workers have a lot to do as far as fire safety is concerned.
Most fire incidents in workplaces occur due to carelessness and negligence. Activities that cause fire outbreaks in workplaces range from faulty electrical wires and appliances, careless smoking, improper handling and storage of highly combustible materials, inappropriate waste disposal to arson.
Before a fire can start, there must be an ignition source. These sources include naked flames, smokers’ materials, faulty electrical appliances, light sources, cooking equipment and heat emitting machines. These are common materials and equipment we see and make use of every day.
To avoid fire outbreaks, there must be strict adherence to fire safety rules. Below are some precautions that will make your workplace safer.
Don’t overload your circuits
This is one of the most common causes of workplace fires. Do not use multi-outlet converters for major appliances and equipment. Instead, they should be plugged directly into an independent power outlet. If you must plug a heat producing appliance in an extension outlet, ensure that not more than one of such appliances are plugged in.
Restrict Smoking Only to Designated Areas
Smoking should be prohibited in working areas. Every cigarette should also be properly extinguished before its disposal.
All electrical appliance should be turned off after each day’s work
If they are not in use, they should be switched off. Many electrical fire hazards have been known to start in the night, after working hours. The National Fire and Civil Emergency Preparedness Council (NFEC) of Singapore suggests that all electrical appliances in offices should be switched off when not in use.
Store flammable materials properly
Flammable Materials should be kept away from heat-emitting equipment: papers, fuels and other flammable materials in the office should be kept away from photocopiers, computer systems and coffee makers. Clutters encourage an outbreak by fueling the fire and creating a barrier to fire escape routes. The more organized a workplace is, the safer.
Replace Every Damaged Electrical Cord and Appliance
Many fire incidents are caused by faulty wiring and malfunctioned electrical equipment. It is always advised for inexperienced users to try to repair faulty electrical outlets. It is also a good safety rule never to run electrical wires under rugs or carpets in high traffic areas.
There should be free access to Electrical Control Panels and Fire Fighting Equipment
Equipment and materials stored in front of these panels should be removed as they could make them inaccessible in case of a fire outbreak. Never obstruct access to firefighting devices. All materials in the workplace should be neatly stacked and piled.
Routine Maintenance of Fire Protection Equipment
Fire extinguishers, smoke detectors, fire sprinklers and other devices that make up the fire protection system should be well maintained. Fire extinguishers should be fully charged to ensure they are ready for use in the event of a fire incident. Workers should also be properly trained in fire prevention and the usage of the protection systems installed in their premises.
Apart from the maintenance of safety device, there should also be proper maintenance of office machines to prevent overheating caused by excessive friction or overwork.
Waste Control of Flammable Substance
The method of disposal should be such that they will not constitute any fire risk. Materials like oil rags are best discarded by disposing them inside a covered metal container far from any ignitable source. They should be regularly emptied and it should be ensured that only approved disposal containers are used.
Accessibility to Emergency Phone Numbers
Emergency numbers like 995 that residents of Singapore dial to get access to the fire brigade service should be written and placed in strategic locations in the workplace.
Fire prevention is always better than trying to contain a fire outbreak. The NFEC has always encouraged residents of Singapore to adopt the Prepare-Prevent-Respond method as an effective means of fire protection. While it is the responsibility of employers to invest in the installation of fire protection systems, it is the duty of everybody in the workplace to adhere to every fire safety rule.