Fire Prevention Week: How to Prevent Fires in the Workplace

Fire Prevention Week: How to Prevent Fires in the Workplace

If a fire broke out where you work would you know what to do? Are you aware of your workplace evacuation plan? Are you equipped with the proper knowledge and tools to prevent fires during your work processes? You should know the answers to all these questions.

Preventing fires in the workplace isn’t just about safety, it’s a smart business move. It’s costly enough to run a business in today’s world, and nobody wants to see their profits go up in flames. Every year, workplace fires cause injury and property loss, both of which you can avoid by having the right fire prevention protocols in place.

In recognition of fire prevention week (Sunday, October 6-Saturday, October 12), we’re going to go over some of the most important aspects of workplace fire prevention. Interested in learning more? Read on!

Fire Safety Plans

The best way to be prepared for anything, especially emergency situations, is to have an established plan. Once an emergency hits, like a fire breaking out in your workplace, it’s extremely hard to think clearly. Having a clear plan already laid out makes it so you don’t have to do any rash thinking – You just have to follow the steps laid out for you.

Approved fire safety plans are often required per your local fire code – depending on the building, occupancy rate or industry. If you’re not aware if a fire safety plan is necessary for your organization you can check with your jurisdiction, municipality, or local fire department for more information. However, fire safety plans are a tool you should consider implementing, even if it’s not enforced.

Fire safety plans should be very detailed and outline an evacuation plan, maintenance, housekeeping requirements, and fire control methods. Different jurisdictions may require certain things, and some may provide a standard template or request a certain format – But, in general, a fire safety plan should include:

  • How to sound the alarm
  • How and when to notify the fire department and designated senior staff (all telephones on-site should have the emergency phone numbers listed, as well as the address of the work-site should be posted close by)
  • An evacuation plan
  • How to confine, control and extinguish the fire (if possible)
  • Fire drill procedures as well as how often they will be performed
  • Specialized information for any designated staff given fire safety duties and responsibilities
  • Any staff education and training necessary
  • Detailed maintenance procedures for any fire suppression equipment
  • Operation instructions including the type and location of all fire or emergency systems
  • Alternative (back-up) fire safety measures
  • How to properly allow the fire department access to the building

View Halifax, Nova Scotia’s, fire safety plan template by clicking here if you’d like to see an example. (You may be able to find one for your specific city by doing a quick Google search!)

Adequate Fire Suppression Equipment

Depending on the work environment, you’ll likely need different types of fire suppression. No matter the type(s) of fire suppression equipment used, employees should be trained on its proper use. You should only use fire suppression equipment if you have received proper training. Examples of some of the more typical types of fire suppression/control systems are:

  • Fire sprinklers – These will be activated automatically in the case of a fire
  • Fire exits – Doors with illuminated exit signs show you the best emergency exit route in case of a fire
  • Fire alarm – A device that makes a loud noise to warn people of a fire. Typically there will be devices located near emergency exits that allow you to sound these alarms, or they may automatically sound when a fire is detected.
  • Smoke detector – An alarm that will sound if smoke is detected
  • Standpipe and hose system – These are usually located in the hallway and serve as a pre-formed connection to a water supply (basically, an extension of the fire hydrant system). They are most common in buildings with large floor plans where areas of the space are a great distance from any entrances. These systems should only be used by specially trained personnel.
  • Fire extinguishers – These are usually mounted on the wall near exits or near flammable equipment. Read on to learn more about fire extinguishers! 

Fire Extinguishers

There should be at the very minimum one fire extinguisher for each level of your workspace. If your work environment/building includes a kitchen, workshop, garage or basement, each of these spaces should have its own fire extinguisher.

You should only attempt to use a fire extinguisher if the fire is contained to a single object. Make sure you and everyone else in the building are safe from both the fire and smoke, and that the fire is not blocking your only exit from the building. ALWAYS prioritize your safety and exit the building to wait for professional assistance if you feel you are unable to put the fire out on your own.

How to use a fire extinguisher

It is very important that you are using the correct type of fire extinguisher when attempting to put out a fire. There are five classes of fire extinguishers – A, B, C, D and K – Each class puts out a different type of fire. Evaluate worksites for potential fire hazards and have the correct extinguisher on-hand for the types of materials used.

Fire extinguisher classes:

  • Class A – Ordinary combustibles like wood or paper
  • Class B – Flammable liquids like grease, gasoline, and oil
  • Class C – Electrically energized fires
  • Class D – Flammable metals
  • Class K – Kitchen fires, effective on cooking oils, animal fats, and vegetable oils

You can purchase multipurpose extinguishers that are suitable for more than one class (A-B, B-C or A-B-C). You’ll find a label on the side of fire extinguishers that show which classes it should be used on.

If it is safe to do so, using the correct extinguisher, follow the PASS method to use your extinguisher:

  1. P – Pull the pin, this will break the tamper seal
  2. A – Aim low, pointing the nozzle or hose at the base of the fire. Do not hold by the horn/nozzle because if it is a CO2 extinguisher, it will get very cold and could harm the skin.
  3. S – Squeeze the handle to release the extinguishing agent
  4. S – Sweep from side to side at the base of the fire and fuel source until the fire is out

If you have an issue during any of these steps, do not continue and exit the building immediately.

Proper Handling and Storage of Flammable Materials

Flammable materials include anything that easily or rapidly ignites and burns. Flammable materials are not rare, and many workplaces use at least a few in their everyday operations! Following labels and doing research is the best way to know exactly what within your workplace is flammable, but some examples are:

  • Gases – Natural gas, propane, butane, methane, acetylene, carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulphide.
  • Liquids – Gasoline, many solvents such as acetone, alcohol, paint and paint thinner, adhesives, degreasers, certain cleaners, waxes, and polishes.
  • Solids – Some types of coal, pyrophoric metals, solid wastes soaked with flammable liquids, gunpowder, matches

Employers are responsible for developing work procedures for the use and storage of any flammable materials used within your job, and to ensure that all employees are trained on those procedures. These procedures should include:

  • Storage
  • Dispensing
  • Spill clean up
  • Incompatible materials
  • Use and maintenance of any controls used in the workplace such as ventilation
  • Required personal protective equipment (PPE) when using the materials
  • Fire protection and prevention measures
  • An outline of any special circumstances which may require additional precautions or training (e.g. confined spaces)

Storage of Flammable Materials

Flammable materials must not be stored near exits, electrical equipment or heating equipment. They should be separated by type and stored in well-ventilated storage areas, away from any potential sources of ignition.

Always ensure and flammable materials are stored in appropriate containers made for these types of materials. Refer to regulations in your area when transferring materials from the container you purchase it in, as many jurisdictions have specific standards that must be met. Some Fire Codes also include requirements for storage, handling, and maximum amounts of flammable materials permitted in a building.

Always remember to label any portable containers with the necessary information often found on the original container, such as:

  • Container contents
  • If contents are flammable
  • If the container should be kept away from ignition sources (e.g. heat, spark, and open flames)
  • The container should be kept closed when not in use
  • A reference to the material safety data sheet (MSDS) for the product

Handling of Flammable Materials

There are three main ways to prevent fires with handling flammable materials:

  1. Limit the amount of flammable materials
    •  Keep only what is needed on site
    • Purchase only the amount of materials needed
    • Do not allow hazardous waste build-up by removing it on a regular basis
  2. Provide proper ventilation to ensure flammable vapors do not accumulate
    • Install proper ventilation in work and storage spaces
    • Ensure all exhausts lead outside the building and away from any air intakes
    • Maintain ventilation system following any building codes that may apply
  3. Control ignition sources
    • Ground and bond all work and ignition-proof equipment
    • Ensure that there is no smoking in work areas where flammable materials are used or stored
    • Never store flammable materials near hot equipment or open flames
    • Use safe and non-sparking tools

Safe Housekeeping Practices

As with many health and safety precautions, housekeeping can really make or break your efforts. You can have access to the best fire suppression equipment possible, but it won’t do any good if that equipment is hidden behind a stack of improperly stored boxes. As well, clutter is fuel to a fire and can inhibit your access to emergency exits.

Below is a general housekeeping checklist that can be followed to aid in fire prevention. If your workspace includes elements like a full kitchen, laundry facilities, spray finishing services, or large refrigeration units, additional elements will need to be added to your list!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Click here to download this checklist as a PDF if you’d like to print and use it for your workplace housekeeping – Or, sign-up here and find more Safety Topics & downloadable content to share at your next Toolbox Talk.

Interested in bringing your workplace safety to the next level? Through our Hercules Training Academy, we offer an extensive suite of high-quality safety training and certification courses. Whether you’re looking for initial or refresher training, we provide practical, hands-on courses designed to exceed the minimum safety requirements. We have Red Cross standard first aid, Red Cross emergency first aid and WHMIS 2015 with GHS just to name a few that may come in handy with your fire prevent measures! You can check out all of our course offerings by clicking here!


LOOKING TO BRING YOUR WORKPLACE SAFETY TO THE NEXT LEVEL? CALL US—HERCULES SLR OFFERS AN EXTENSIVE SUITE OF HIGH-QUALITY SAFETY TRAINING AND CERTIFICATION COURSES.

The Silent Killer: How Carbon Monoxide is Formed

working welding with welders mask

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning: The Silent Killer

What’s odourless, colourless, tasteless and can kill you almost instantly? Carbon monoxide (CO).

Carbon monoxide poisoning is a reality for everyone, not just those who work in industrial trades.

Carbon monoxide poisoning can happen over time or in an instant, depending on the level of Carbon Monoxide in the air. Certain spaces are more prone to carbon monoxide poisoning than others, for example, confined spaces are more likely to pose a risk for CO poisoning. 

Carbon monoxide is made when you burn: 

  • Oil
  • Coal
  • Gas
  • Wood
  • Propane
  • Natural gas 

Like we touch on above, it’s particularly deadly when burnt in an enclosed space with little air-circulation or flow.   

In this blog, we’ll cover what exactly is carbon monoxide, how & if it can be treated, how you can prevent CO poisoning, what the symptoms are and steps employers & employees should take to minimize the risk of dangerous exposure.  

WHAT IS CARBON MONOXIDE?

Like we mention above, carbon monoxide is an odourless, tasteless & colourless flammable gas. Carbon monoxide is in many other substances, like the air we breathe—The amount of CO in the air is approximately 0.2 parts per million (ppm) which isn’t harmful to humans.

In increased levels (usually around 150ppm or higher), carbon monoxide becomes deadly.   

OK, SO WHAT IS CARBON MONOXIDE POISONING?

Carbon monoxide poisoning happens when CO is inhaled and builds up in the bloodstream.  

The body displaces the oxygen in your red blood cells with carbon monoxide. Your bloodstream can’t send  oxygen to vital organs like your brain, heart & nervous tissue so they can work. This leads to unconsciousness, and if it worsens, death. 

It’s important to note that carbon monoxide is poisonous to animals, too. 

CARBON MONOXIDE POISONING: WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?

Symptoms of CO poisoning can appear quickly, or slowly over time depending on the amount in the air, the size of the individual & their muscular activity and the amount of time they’re exposed to the CO.

Many signs of CO poisoning resemble the flu. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include:

  • Headache
  • Nausea/Vomiting 
  • Trouble breathing 
  • Dizziness 
  • Confusion 
  • Chest pain 
  • Stomach pain 

If someone is sleeping or intoxicated, they likely won’t display symptoms, but will still succumb to CO poisoning. Everyone exposed to CO poisoning will be effected, no matter individual health, size or gender—Although the time that symptoms and sickness appear may differ. 

Even cases of carbon dioxide poisoning that aren’t considered that serious can lead to long-lasting health effects. Some of these include:

  • Brain damage
  • Heart damage
  • Organ damage
CARBON MONOXIDE POISONING: WHAT SORT OF WORK PRODUCES CARBON MONOXIDE? 

You probably know now that carbon monoxide poisoning can impact anyone—Whether you’re at work, home or school, all sorts of environments can produce CO.

One of the largest producers of carbon monoxide in the world are natural disasters/sources, like forest fires, but workers still need to be prepared for work that produces carbon monoxide, especially when it takes place in areas where air flow is restricted. Carbon monoxide burns well when it’s mixed with air, and this can be explosive in high-enough amounts. 

When it comes to carbon monoxide at work, there are a few different types of work that have the potential to produce harmful levels of carbon monoxide if not managed properly. 

Some jobs, or factors around jobs that can produce dangerous levels of carbon monoxide include: 

  • Welding 
  • Work vehicles 
  • Portable generators 
  • Engines, (ex. Internal Combustion Engines) 
  • Gasoline-powered tools 
  • Fire/Explosions
  • Natural gas heaters 
  • Kilns, furnaces or boilers 
  • Cigarette smoke 
CARBON MONOXIDE POISONING: PREVENTION

There are many steps you can take to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning at work. 

What does carbon monoxide do to the body over time? Take a look at the chart below: 

 
Employers can:
  • Install a ventilation system that removes carbon monoxide from work areas. 
  • Maintain water & space heaters, cooking ranges/gas stoves 
  • Use alternatives to gas-powered equipment 
  • Install and use a carbon monoxide detector—Choose a detector that will sound the alarm before carbon monoxide reaches dangerous levels. 
  • Don’t use gas-powered tools in areas with poor ventilation 
  • Regularly test the quality of air where carbon monoxide-producing work is performed 
  • Ensure employees are trained and are wearing appropriate PPE for the work and conditions 
CARBON MONOXIDE POISONING: TREATMENT

If you suspect someone of experiencing carbon monoxide poisoning, call 911 immediately. Remove them from the carbon monoxide-affected area only if you’re wearing the appropriate PPE to protect yourself—Remember, nearly 60% of confined space deaths happen to worker’s trying to rescue others. 

First, a blood sample is taken to determine if you have carbon monoxide poisoning. 

In terms of treatment, there are different courses of action to take. DO NOT consider this a guide of what to do, but rather some potential things to expect from treatment from the hospital depending on your carbon monoxide levels. 

For treatment, they might: 

  • Have the poisoned person breath fresh air or pure oxygen 
  • Place the person in a high-pressure chamber that forces oxygen into the body  
KNOW YOUR PPE: RESPIRATORS 

Working in areas where you’ll be exposed to harmful gases, chemicals or air? A respirator might be just the PPE you need. 

Get to know the respirator, here: 

cartoon ppe respirator

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Want more tips to deal with Carbon Monoxide? Open the Hercules SLR Toolbox and find quizzes, infographics & video to make your next safety meeting one they’ll actually care about. 


FOR RELATED READING, CHECK OUT OUR BLOGS:

WHY CONFINED SPACE TRAINING?

TRAINING TUESDAY | TOP 4 CONFINED SPACE HAZARDS

CANNABIS: BEYOND THE CULTIVATING AND HARVESTING


HERCULES SLR PROVIDES MAINTENANCE, INSPECTIONS & REPAIRS FOR RIGGING EQUIPMENT

NEED A LIFT? DROP US A LINE, OR GIVE US A CALL!

INFO@HERCULESSLR.COM  1 (877) 461-4876

 


Hercules SLR is part of Hercules Group of Companies, with locations and unique businesses coast-to-coast. We provide securing, lifting and rigging services for sectors in Canada and Internationally. Hercules SLR serves the energy, oil & gas, manufacturing, construction, aerospace, infrastructure, utilities, mining and marine industries.

Hercules Group of Companies is comprised of: Hercules SLRHercules Machining & Millwright ServicesSpartan Industrial MarineStellar Industrial Sales and Wire Rope Atlantic.

We have the ability to provide any hoisting solution your business or project will need. Call us today for more information. 1-877-461-4876 or email info@herculesslr.com

Why Chemical Safety is Important | Training Tuesday

why chemical safety is important

WHY CHEMICAL SAFETY IS IMPORTANT 

Why is chemical safety important? Hazardous or toxic chemicals are used in many industrial environments on a daily basis. 

Although chemicals make up the world around us, some can be more harmful than others—This is just one reason why chemical safety is important. 

Read on to learn how toxic chemicals can enter the body, how to identify hazards, some tips for using chemicals safely in the workplace and terms you should know. 

WHY CHEMICAL SAFETY IS IMPORTANT | 4 TYPES OF EXPOSURE

There are four different ways chemicals can enter the body. These are:

  1. Inhalation: Chemicals that take form in gas, vapour or particulates are easily inhaled. These chemicals can absorb into the respiratory tract, and can head into the bloodstream and organs. This is often noted as the most common way the body absorbs harmful chemicals. 
  2. Skin/Eye absorption: Chemical contact with skin can result in mild dermatitis, or a rash. However, chemicals can also be absorbed into the bloodstream this way. Eyes are also sensitive to most chemicals, so safety glasses must be worn when conducting work with chemicals. Another common scenario that causes eye contact to chemicals (especially if not wearing appropriate safety glasses) is wiping or rubbing at your eyes during chemical exposure.   
  3. Ingestion: Like with inhalation or skin/eye absorption, ingestion can cause the toxic chemicals to travel to the organs. When conducting work in areas where ingestion is likely, like confined spaces, it’s important to have an entry & exit plan, and the proper PPE for the job. 
  4. Injection: This doesn’t necessarily mean directly injecting chemicals into your bloodstream, but if you have a cut or other tear in the skin, chemicals can be absorbed this way. 

Chemicals often travel to the respiratory system, but how? The respiratory system has two main parts. These are the upper & lower airway passages. The upper respiratory system consists of the nose, mouth, pharynx & larynx. The lower respiratory system consists of the vocal cords to the trachea, to the end of the bronchial tree. 

It’s important to note that there are different factors that affect how the degree of hazard caused by the chemical. These are: 

  • How it enters the body 
  • How much enters the body 
  • How toxic the chemical is 
  • When/How it’s removed 
  • Biological variation 

WHY CHEMICAL SAFETY IS IMPORTANT | IDENTIFYING HAZARDS

Obviously, chemical exposure in the workplace is unavoidable—But risks and hazards can be managed. 

A risk assessment should be conducted for chemicals, just like is conducted for other workplace hazards.
To identify chemical hazards in the workplace:why is chemical safety important

  • Identify: Determine the chemicals in your workplace and safety hazards that go along with them. For example, if chlorine is used to clean, know that long-term exposure to chlorine can cause nausea & eye discomfort, and have eyewash stations in-place so employees can rinse their eyes if contact occurs. 
  • Assess: Take a look not just at hazardous chemicals in the workplace, but the processes that accompany them.
  • Control: After hazards are identified, put controls in-place to reduce the likelihood of an accident.

WHY CHEMICAL SAFETY IS IMPORTANT | TERMS TO KNOW 

ACUTE TOXICITY (SEE TOXICITY BELOW): Refers to exposure to chemicals that humans aren’t often around, or are in contact with due to an accident. For example, a leak at a plant could cause the locals to experience acute toxicity. Sometimes, effects are immediately felt, and in other cases effects can be delayed. 

BIOLOGICAL VARIATION: Characteristics that might be unique to the individual, like weight, height or sex. 

PARTICULATES: Solids or liquids that are dispersed as gas. Particulates can include dust, mist, fumes or other particles that are found in the space. 

TOXICITY: The measure of how poisonous a chemical is. For example, a chemical with a lower toxicity will need a much higher amount to be harmful than a chemical with a high amount of poison or toxicity. 

WORKPLACE HAZARDOUS MATERIALS INFORMATION SYSTEM (WHMIS): This is Canada’s national workplace hazard communication standard. This elements of WHMIS include hazard classification, cautionary labelling, availability of material safety data sheets and educational programs for employees. 

chemical safety

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


FOR RELATED READING, CHECK OUT OUR BLOGS:

TRAINING TUESDAY: TAGLINES

 TRAINING TUESDAY | CONFINED SPACE HAZARDS

RIGGING AND LIFTING SLINGS | TRAINING TUESDAY


HERCULES SLR PROVIDES MAINTENANCE, INSPECTIONS & REPAIRS FOR RIGGING EQUIPMENT

NEED A LIFT? GIVE US A CALL, OR DROP US A LINE.

INFO@HERCULESSLR.COM  1 (877) 461-4876

 


Hercules SLR is part of Hercules Group of Companies, with locations and unique businesses coast-to-coast. We provide securing, lifting and rigging services for sectors in Canada and Internationally. Hercules SLR serves the energy, oil & gas, manufacturing, construction, aerospace, infrastructure, utilities, mining and marine industries.

Hercules Group of Companies is comprised of: Hercules SLRHercules Machining & Millwright ServicesSpartan Industrial MarineStellar Industrial Sales and Wire Rope Atlantic.

We have the ability to provide any hoisting solution your business or project will need. Call us today for more information. 1-877-461-4876 or email info@herculesslr.com