Fire Prevention Programs and Remediation
4.5 min read Since 1922, the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) has sponsored the public observance of Fire Prevention Week in the United States. It has been a national observance since 1925, making it the longest-running public health observance in the U.S. The prevention week is observed each year during the week of October 9th to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire. The fire, which began on October 8, 1871, killed more than 250 people, left 100,000 homeless, destroyed more than 17,400 structures and burned more than 2,000 acres of land. This week reminds us it is imperative to perform fire suppression system checks, emergency procedure inspections and ask questions to make sure our companies have done their due diligence in protecting stakeholders from the risk of fire on work sites and company premises. The Scope of the ProblemIn 2017, the Fire Service in the United Kingdom was called to an average 300 non-dwelling building fires a week. According to Health and Safety Executive, some of the contributing ignition sources include hot works, plant and equipment, smoking, electrical installations and arson. When looking at the United States, it is reported that in 2017 there were an estimated 111,000 non-residential fires. There were 95 deaths, 1,200 injuries and losses of more than $2.7 trillion reported in these fires. With a 20% increase in fires and a 16% increase in deaths from these fires between 2008-2017 reported by the U.S. Fire Administration, companies face a serious threat of loss of life and property. The risk of fire for organizations and contractors is a global issue. Review and evaluate your fire prevention programs to minimize liability and risk. The Science of Fire – Fuel / Heat / Oxygen (Triangle of Combustion) Fuel – For a fire to start there needs to be the presence of materials, such as oils, paper, fabrics, gases, woods, rubber, plastics or liquids. Heat – The listed materials need to be heated for ignition to occur. Oxygen – The last element to enable the start and spread of fire is oxygen. When combustible materials are oxidized with the presence of a heat source, this is where ignition results. All three elements must be present for a chemical chain reaction to take place and result in combustion. To put out the fire, one of these elements must then be removed. When we break fire down into its 3 core elements, it is easy to see why job sites can be susceptible to the risk of fire. Best Practices to Consider PreventionA key step in assessing fire programs is to question what we can do to minimize these risks in the first place. Consider the following checklist: Employees Confirm those performing inspections are competent to perform them and understand how defects and/or issues are reported Sites & Equipment Implement a maintenance program to prevent equipment / plant machinery failures and train employees to report defects Assess your premises and day-to-day operations to identify fire risks and potential emergency situations Perform inspections to ensure emergency routes are clear and to highlight unsafe storage of combustible materials and cylinders Confirm suitable security provisions and access systems are in place to secure against arson and other risks Procedures Develop suitable procedures / safe systems of work to minimize the risk of fire Ensure your procedures are adhering to local legislative requirements Have a fire watch process in place for hot works & welding in line with legal / industry best practice standards ReactionConsider what can be implemented to mitigate the severity of fire and prevent harm to all stakeholders if there has been a failure in prevention systems or where an accident or unforeseen event has taken place. By asking the following questions, gaps can be identified in current reactionary processes and increase efficiencies: Employees Have fire wardens / incident controllers been appointed and is there a system in place to account for all persons on site? Have persons been appointed to provide first aid? When and how often is training required? How do you assess and ensure the competency of your appointed incident controllers and fire wardens? Systems & Equipment Do you have appropriate detection and alarm systems in place and are these suitably maintained? Does your company have firefighting equipment with maintenance programs to ensure effectiveness? Procedures Is there a suitable procedure in place for persons to raise the alarm? Are emergency evacuation plans suitably displayed and communicated to all employees, contractors, subcontractors and visitors? Are there regular tests and/or reviews of evacuation procedures? ReviewCompanies should always strive for continuous improvement to help ensure when an incident has occurred that actions are taken to prevent similar incidents from reoccurring. The following should be considered: Are you investigating fires and incidents to identify causes to prevent reoccurrence and future incidents? How are necessary corrective actions tracked and implemented by your company? How are investigation findings communicated to all relevant stakeholders? Let ISN helpISN’s team of health and safety specialists monitor applicable regulatory changes as well as review and verify fire and emergency safety programs to ensure documentation is meeting regulatory standards and client best practices. By meeting these safety program requirements contractors are demonstrating they have suitable provisions in place. ISN’s RAVS Plus process provides an effective platform for discussing implementation with management and company employees to ensure these practices and procedures are being communicated to front-line personnel. If you are an existing ISNetworld subscribing Hiring Client, contact your account team to inquire about RAVS Plus and other programs to help bolster your fire protection program. To discuss ISNetworld’s resources, RAVS Plus and additional benefits for both clients and contractors, please request a demo of our contractor management platform.