According to the Ministry of the Solicitor General, there were more than 110,000 fires in Ontario between 2010-2019, resulting in billions of dollars in damages and hundreds of fatalities. With both property and human life at stake, fire hazard identification is the responsibility of business owners, property managers, and every employee.
While a regularly scheduled inspection can help identify fire hazards, everyone working in a commercial facility should be able to spot potentially dangerous situations. Once you’re familiar with the most common ways fires begin, you and your staff should be able to easily spot the most common hazards and correct them before they ignite.
1) Smoking Materials
Smoking materials are the leading cause of fires in residential buildings. While Ontario law prohibits smoking in public areas, such as stairways, lobbies, elevators, and laundry facilities, most properties allow smoking inside private residences. In addition, property managers can post signs to remind tenants to use heavy no-tip ashtrays and not to smoke when in bed or when consuming alcohol.
2) Electrical Circuits
Fires from electrical circuits are a serious problem for all types of commercial buildings. The wire gauge size limits the amperage an electrical circuit can carry. While a fuse or electrical breaker should protect the wiring from overheating, employees and managers should be careful not to overload a circuit.
With the constant increase of power-consuming devices in offices, data centers, and plants, it can be tempting to daisy chain power strips to a single electrical outlet. Unfortunately, this is a fire hazard, and you should avoid this by having an electrician install additional electrical receptacles. Managers should periodically conduct an inspection for overloaded circuits and educate their employees on this fire hazard.
3) Combustible Materials
Materials like paper and cardboard are highly combustible and provide fuel for a fire to spread. If stored in a poor location, they can turn a small fire into a devastating one. Managers should develop a routine that encourages employees to dispose of such materials as quickly as possible.
Remember not to store combustible materials in hallways or near exits. They can impede personnel from safely escaping during a fire.
4) Flammable and Combustible Liquids
The susceptibility to burn makes liquids flammable or combustible, and they’re classified by their flashpoints. While combustible liquids require higher than normal working area temperatures, flammable liquids can easily ignite at average working temperatures.
Both flammable and combustible liquids are common in most workplaces. Carefully store materials, such as waxes, polishes, cleaners, solvents, and thinners, in a locked and ventilated cabinet to prevent them from igniting a dangerous fire.
5) Cooking Equipment
Stoves and fryers used in restaurants are another leading cause of commercial fires. Therefore, staff should always monitor grease near an open flame.
Heavily used equipment like coffee makers and toasters are also responsible for fires. Restaurant management and staff should make sure they aren’t near combustible material when in use.
6) Heating Equipment
Property managers should consider heat pumps, boilers, heat lamps, and space heaters to be fire hazards and perform regular inspections on them. Management and staff should verify that they’re functioning correctly and keep them away from combustible or flammable materials.
Property and operations managers have a lot of responsibilities, and fire hazard identification often doesn’t get the amount of attention it deserves. However, regular inspection and maintenance of potential fire hazards should be an essential aspect of every business property.
· 5% of the loss fires occurred within industrial workplaces
· 3% within assembly businesses
· 2% within mercantile industries
· 2% within the business and personal services sectors
Source: Office of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management
And now the good news.
There are effective ways to decrease fire risks including regular fire inspection, installation of a fire sprinkler system, fire extinguishers, and smoke alarms.
Before we get into how to evaluate your company’s fire risk and offer concrete fire protection solutions let’s consider the workplace fire basics you should know.
What You Should Know About Workplace Fires
In order to be able to put in place basic fire prevention systems in your workplace, it’s imperative to understand fire incident prevalence, fire causes, and the fire codes in place in your province. Here’s what you should know about workplace fires:
The Ontario Ministry of the Solicitor General reports that in 2019, there were 6,698 structural loss fires and 4, 863 residential loss fires. Loss fires are those involving injury of persons, fatalities, and dollar loss.
These fires led to the deaths of 67 people and 793 civilian fire injuries. The resulting property damage was estimated at $968.9 million.
Source: Ontario Ministry of the Solicitor General
More than 13% of these fires occurred within a workplace. While this paints somewhat of a grim picture, it is noteworthy to mention that the 2019 fire estimates were lower on average than in previous years. And there has been a downward trend with fires decreasing over the years.
The NFC lays out detailed instructions to ensure buildings are constructed in a manner that ensures hazards are mitigated particularly when putting up multi-story buildings using combustible materials.
Every department within a business should have a key person who is responsible for taking charge should a fire occur.
This person should be a level-headed individual, able to keep calm under pressure and supervise accounting for employees at the appointed safe meeting point.
This person also has the task of enforcing fire safety regulations around the office on a regular basis.
Step 5: Conduct Routine Fire Drills
Once you have perfected the details of your fire plan and put everything in writing, it’s time to communicate the plan with your employees.
A fire safety conference can be scheduled where the company fire plan is explained in depth.
From here, sporadic fire drills may be carried out to train employees and make sure everyone knows what to do if a fire were ever to break out.
Get Equipped Today
Don’t wait until something happens to take action.
By being proactive, you position yourself strategically and give your employees and business the best chance of survival and recovery post-fire incidents.
Make sure your company is adequately prepared and has sufficient fire protection systems in place such as emergency backup generators, fire sprinkler systems, and fire alarms.
For all your fire inspections and fire prevention solutions in Waterloo, Ontario think All Protect Systems.
We offer a comprehensive line of fire alarm systems, fire warning solutions, emergency backup generators, fire extinguishers, emergency lighting, exit lighting, fire safety plans and sprinkler systems.