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Fire Safety on the Job

Office Fires

Many of the nation's annual 5,000 office building fires could be prevented if companies and employees followed basic on-the-job firesafe practices.

Prevention:

Arson
Arson is the largest single cause of fires in general office buildings.

* Follow your building's security measures and keep unauthorized people out of the building. Keep doors locked after business hours. Alleys and other areas around you building should be well lit. Keep clutter out of halls, lobbies, alleys, and other public areas.

Housekeeping
* Keep waste paper, empty boxes, dirty rags, cleaning supplies, and other combustibles out of exits, storage areas, and stairways.

Wiring
* Replace any cracked, frayed, or damaged electrical cord.

* Never run extension cords across doorways or where they can be stepped on or pinched or run over by chairs or other furniture. Do not plug extension cords into each other and avoid plugging more than one extension cord into an outlet.

Equipment and appliances
* Leave space for air to circulate around heaters and other heat-producing equipment, such as copy machines, coffeemakers, and computers. Keep appliances away from anything that might catch fire. Do not stack books or papers on top of computer monitors.

* Designate an employee to turn off or unplug all appliances-including coffeemakers and hot plates-at the end of each workday.

Smoking
Cigarettes, matches, and lighters are a major cause of all fires. Many companies have banned smoking on the job as a health concern and to decrease the possibility of fires.

* If your company allows smoking in the workplace, smoke only where permitted. Do not flick ashes onto floors or into wastebaskets. Use large, non-tip ashtrays, and make sure everything in them is cold before you empty them.

* Apply the same cautions to visitors and be alert to smoldering cigarette butts on furniture or in wastebaskets.

Plan ahead

In the event of fire, a safe and speedy response depends on how well employees and employers are prepared for emergencies.


Employees should. . .

* Count the doors or desks between their work areas and the nearest exit. During a fire, employees may have to find their way out in the dark.

* Learn the location of alternative exits from all work areas.

* Know the location of the nearest fire alarm and learn how to use it.

* Post the fire department's emergency phone number, 911 is most areas, on or near all telephones.

* Be sure that someone in authority knows about any disability that could delay an escape, and makes plans for a safe evacuation.

Employees should...

* Post building evacuation plans and discuss them during new-employee orientations.

* Conduct regular fire drills.

* Include disabled employees in the fire emergency planning process.

If fire strikes...

* Sound the alarm and call the fire department, no matter how small the fire appears to be.

* Leave the area quickly, closing doors as you go to contain the fire and smoke.

* If you encounter smoke or flames during your escape, use an alternative exit. Heat and smoke rise, leaving cleaner air near the floor. If you must exit through smoke, crawl on your hands and knees, keeping your head in the "safety zone" 12 to 24 inches (30 to 60 centimeters) above the floor.

* Test doors before you open them. Kneeling or crouching at the door, reach up as high as you can and touch the door, the knob, and the space between the door and its frame with the back of your hand. If the door is warm, use another escape route. If the door is cool, open it slowly, being prepared to close it quickly if you encounter smoke or flames.

* Follow directions for evacuation from fire and security personnel. Once outside, move away from the building, out of the way of fire fighters. Remain outside until the fire department says you may go back in.

In some high-rise buildings, the fire emergency plan requires workers in areas not directly involved in the fire to remain in the building until instructed otherwise by fire fighters.

Portable fire extinguishers

Most portable fire extinguishers are appropriate only for fighting small, contained fires, such as a fire in a wastebasket. It is dangerous to fight a grease or electrical fire with an extinguisher that contains water.

Employers who provide portable fire extinguishers should designate and train specific employees to operate them.

WARNING

If you are unfamiliar with the extinguisher or proper fire-fighting techniques, do not endanger yourself and your co-workers by attempting to fight even a small fire.

Be certain the fire department has been called and that everyone has left the fire area before attempting to fight a small fire.


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