Written by Daniel Aday, CompOne Administrators Safety & Loss Prevention Specialist
While fires in homes and businesses may occur at any part of the year, they typically occur more often in the fall and winter months, peaking around December and January. People tend to spend more time indoors, lighting candles, having warm food and drinks, and electrical heating devices, which all contribute to the increase in residential and commercial fires. Regardless of how fires typically start, prevention should be made in all aspects where fire has any potential of starting. Using this Five Step Self Checklist, you can ensure that your business is one step closer to a safer working environment.
1. Check all electrical cords, outlets, plugs, extension cords, GFCI’s, and lights. Electrical cords should be unbent, non-frayed, and not be stepped on. Replace all damaged cords. Extension cords should not be used for more than 90 continuous days (they can be used for as long as they are in good shape, but not be plugged in for 3 continuous months). Outlet testers are available and reasonably priced to ensure that your outlets function as they should. Some even include a GFCI that can ensure your GFCI outlets function as they should. Lastly, check all your light bulbs in lamps and fixtures are 7 feet and under and ensure they are screwed in tightly, as they may get bumped into and loosen up over time. Bonus – check all electrical panels and ensure they are cleared up to 3 feet. In the event of an emergency, electrical panels must be kept clear so they can easily be turned off.
2. Check all fire extinguishers, smoke detectors, and CO monitors. Fire extinguishers should typically be checked every month, but make special note to check them at least 1x a year with a complete inspection. Check to make sure the extinguisher is cleaned (no spider webs around!), can easily be removed from the hanger, and is being inspected as it should be on a monthly basis. If your business conducts work off site or in remote locations, it is always a good idea to have a fire extinguisher in your company vehicles. Additionally, check fire smoke detectors and CO monitors. They should all have a test function built into them. If you do not keep track of when you replace the batteries, it might be a good idea to preventatively replace them.
3. The most common area where fires start, regardless of commercial or residential fires, is going to be from the kitchen or kitchen area. If you find that people forget to unplug appliances that heat up when in use (toasters, toaster ovens, coffee makers, etc.), put those items on timed outlets or put up signs that indicate they must be unplugged after each use. Use this time now to inspect each appliance that heats up and check to see if it is unplugged if not in use. Ensure that there are proper cookware items and everything has plenty of room. There should always be a fire extinguisher in any room that has fire, or items that heat up!
4. Clear clutter and ensure electronics have enough room for ventilation. Clutter can be in the form of storage in the wrong areas (such as fire exits) or in areas that need to have ventilation (such as computers). Take a moment and think about everything that can heat up – whether it is a gas powered leaf blower or a laptop. Ensure that these devices are not put away when hot, or if they are, there is sufficient ventilation that will allow them to cool down… not just thrown in with a bunch of other clutter!
5. Ensure everyone is trained on your company’s procedures and they know what to do in the event of a fire. It may be beneficial to do an annual fire extinguisher training, along with your evacuation drills. Ensure employees know who to call and what needs to be done following an emergency. Taking the time now to prepare for a fire emergency ensures that your employees know what to do, and gives peace of mind that everyone will come out safe in the event of a fire.