FIRE SAFETY IN THE OFFICE
Besides fire safety at home and school, turn your attention to the office. The office is a mass of major flammable hazards where almost everything is combustible and yet you spend most of your time there. We spend an average of one thirds of our lives working and more often than not, they will be working in an office environment. Of course, most companies would have been already insured from any fire outbreaks and this insurance would also cover any injuries sustained by their employees, however they would want to avoid civil lawsuits filed against them if any individual is to be injured during such untimely event. However, we should always imprint the mindset of “prevention is better than cure” into our thinking which in turn allow us to practice good habits.
Below are the office fire hazards
Most offices are filled with employees doing their daily paperwork and these tend to pile up higher and higher if left unattended. Even unwanted documents are crushed and thrown into the disposal bins and it resides there until the attendant comes and clears it away. Usually this would be only once or twice a day, and that is a lot of rubbish to go through. Some offices keep paper records of their transactions in registries or store rooms, those are they ones that are the biggest fire hazards of them all. It is like a disaster waiting to happen.
While open fires are rare in office environments, they can start from the common overloaded sockets or faulty wiring insulation. The amount of paper used by companies can fuel a blaze that can burn the whole floor to the ground.
Besides papers and documents, many companies deal with online transactions and soft copy documents, this means computers. And when there are computers to store such information, there definitely will be server rooms. The bigger the amount of data being handled by the company, the bigger the server racks. Some of the server racks are stored in fully air-conditioned server rooms while some SMEs do not practice it.
These rooms are filled with equipment and hard drives that help to store and process the saved data from all the computers in the office. And where there are many electrical equipment concentrated in one place, it emits huge amounts of heat. Sometimes if the wiring or equipment overheats, it can catch fire and this would damage the entire database of the company.
You should also check all insulated wiring for frayed wires or faulty hardware, especially computer that are left on for 24 hours a day.
Some fire hazards don’t derive from mishandled paper or electrical faults. Sometimes, even the flooring, ceiling or walls can be a fire hazard on its own. More often than not, companies tend to be on a tight budget whilst renovating their office space and decide to opt for cheaper materials in constructing their premises. True, these materials help to cut costs here and there, but sometimes these materials are easily flammable. Any accidental fire could spread really fast across the entire office, certain chemical compounds in the materials do not react well with others. Remember the story where there were clothing that combusted in the sun? You would not want your construction savings to be the end of you.
How we can play our part to minimize fire hazards
If you are an owner of such office spaces, not to worry, there are ways to help minimize such fire hazards to ensure a safer and more conducive work environment for your employees.
Ensure there is a proper paper disposal system in place to prevent rubbish from stacking up too high. Clearing the office rubbish bins is one thing, but all of that has to go somewhere as well and that would cause the end destination to become a fire hazard if not properly attended. Especially if you practice the shredding of paper, do not store it in a fire evacuation stairwell where some individuals may sneak a cigarette or two and butts that are not extinguished may come in contact with the shredded paper. The concept is similar to burning a stack of paper and a burning a pile burning crunched up papers where the latter will create a bigger flame compared to the stack which will burn longer but will not host a big flame.
Make sure all staff maintain their desks in neat, tidy and clutter free condition. This will help to lessen desktop messes and fire hazards. Files should be kept in drawers and unused or unattended papers should be stored accordingly. Not only does this help with fire hazards, it also enables us to ensure that there are no food wastes being left hidden under papers that might lead to a colony of pests that are residing within the desk. Not to mention any food rot can cause mold and other fungi growth.
Server room temperatures should be kept cool and regulated to ensure the heat emitted is brought to a low. Ensure the wiring are properly maintained and organized. All old and exposed wiring should be promptly replaced in case it catches fire. Air-conditioning units should also have a standby system in the event of the primary failure, or a double shift to keep the server room in a 24 hour cool state. Server rooms should also be fitted with FM200
fire suppression systems to minimize damage in event of a server room fire.
What else can be done to add fire safety?
Other than minimizing fire hazards, one can also add on to the fire safety of the office by making sure there are sprinklers installed at every segment of the office, the fire code states about a 4m span for each sprinkler head. Even though it gets all the paper wet and even cause damage to your equipment, this is the fastest automated way to prevent the fire from spreading and further than it deserves.
Another way is to ensure fire extinguishers are readily available in the office as human response can sometimes be faster than an automated response of a sprinkler system, be sure to check with your office manager on the amount of extinguishers needed and the areas they should be put up. The pressure gauge should always be in the green and servicing date should not be expired. As discussed in our previous post, know your fires and what kind of fires require different kinds of extinguishers. Electrical fires and paper fires belong to different categories respectively.
Of course there are other ways to minimize fire hazards and add on to fire safety and the list goes on. Different offices and settings have their own requirements and sometimes require different approaches in handling fire safety. If you are unsure about fire safety, you can contact your building management office who will then carry out an assessment for you to help you verify if your office is within the fire code.
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