Fire in the workplace is a hazard to both people and premises and it is important to know when to run, when to fight and what equipment to choose for the fight. Each year in Australia, fire causes about 100 fatalities, 3000 injuries and an average loss of 83 residences.
The common cause of death and injury is smoke inhalation, and a little fire safety education can go a long way towards reducing these statistics, according to Salamander Consultants. Salamander Consultants is one of the fire safety exhibitors that will take part in the new fire and security feature area at the Safety In Action and Melbourne Materials Handling trade shows. The Safety In Action and Melbourne Materials Handling trade shows are conducted by the Australian Exhibitions & Conferences .
Fire safety and flash protection will also be highlighted by textile wholesaler and developer Westex, which will have its INDURA Ultrasoft fire retardant fabrics on show. The fabrics are designed to protect welders, electricians and other workers exposed to heat and flames. Fire in the workplace can be devastating. Preventing injury to employees is always the number one priority and the sad reality is that businesses that suffer a serious fire go out of business which affects everyone. Fires caused by arson alone have been estimated to cost the Australian community as much as $400 million each year.
According to Trevor Pillinger, Managing Director, Salamander Consultants,, prevention is always the first step in fire safety, it is also important that everyone understands the appropriate emergency procedure in the event of fire. Regardless of where a fire is or what the cause is, individuals try to put the fire out only if it is the size of a wastepaper bin or less.
Anything bigger and the location should be evacuated and the fire department called. If a decision is made to attempt to put out a fire, it is important that employees responsible are aware that different types of fire extinguishers are used to fight different fires. Fire safety experts warn that extinguishers should only be used on a fire when the cause is known.
Following are the ways to extinguish fire:
- Cooling – this is commonly done using water (except on electrical fires)
- Smothering – by placing a barrier over the fire, oxygen is cut off and the fire will go out This is usually done with foam or carbon dioxide extinguishers or a fire blanket.
- Starving – if the fuel supply is removed, a fire cannot burn. For example, this can be done by turning the gas off from a BBQ cylinder
Company directors and managers have an important role to play in preventing and dealing with incidents and can be held accountable if a court decides they did not take ‘reasonable steps to prevent the likely risk of harm to persons or the environment’. Current occupational health and safety legislation states that each person concerned in the management of the corporation can be held personally liable for the same offence.
OHS professionals and facility managers alike need to be aware of what is required under Australian Standard AS3745 and be able to access the expertise to develop a proper emergency plan.
To ensure both safety and compliance with legal requirements, every workplace needs an effective management system. An important part of this is going through every area of the business’ operations to identify potential hazards, doing a risk assessment for each hazard that is identified and drafting appropriate risk control processes.
Following are the risk control processes to be followed:
- Evacuation procedures, ensuring the correct fire fighting equipment is at hand
- Training relevant employees on how to use this equipment and incident reporting processes
Hazards can change and equipment can become outdated so it is important to regularly check all gear to ensure it will be able to perform in the case of an emergency. Expert information on preventing and fighting fire both in the workplace and home will be on hand at the fire safety section of Safety In Action and Melbourne Materials Handling.
This year’s exhibitors will provide advice on training as well as risk assessment and risk control processes for compliance purposes. There will also be specialists on hand to discuss which equipment is most appropriate in any given environment. The trade show organised by the Australian Exhibitions & Conferences will run at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre. At the same time, workplace health and safety issues will be discussed at the Safety In Action conference, hosted by The Safety Institute of Australia and sponsored by WorkSafe Victoria and Downer EDI.