January 26, 2016

Help! Help! My Wastebasket Is On Fire! Help!

By Paul Bieber

Most of you have not heard the above words in your office; that’s good. Someday you may, especially if you allow smoking. What happens next can be a simple remedy or thousands of dollars of expense and disruption for your business.

Read on to see how you can be in that first category.

The answer is to have fire extinguishers properly placed around your business and train people how and when to use one. Every person should be able to get to an extinguisher within their work area. Call your local fire department or your insurance company to give a walk-thru and explain what you need. Make sure your place is clean and organized before the walk-thru.

Also, ask which type(s) of extinguishers you should have. The most common is an ABC type. An “A” fire is ordinary combustibles, “B” is flammable liquids and “C” is electrical equipment. Also, ask which type and what size you need on each of your trucks. Every state has different regulations.

Place your fire extinguishers where they are easy to reach, with the handle being no more than 48 inces above the floor. (This is federal regulation). Don’t ever let clutter grow in front of an extinguisher. Place a large sign above each extinguisher with an arrow pointing to it.

That’s the easy part.  If a waste basket catches fire, will your team simply run away, call the fire department, or go to the extinguisher? Have your insurance company come in and teach what to do in different situations. And here is the most important part of the training: In your parking lot, set up a waste basket with paper and light it on fire. Give each person a chance to pull the handle on your extinguisher. They will see how easy it really is. No one wants to figure it out while there is smoke in the room. Yes, you will use up a couple of extinguishers and that will cost less than $100. Spend it.

If people are comfortable with an action they will take it. Not many people will attempt to put out a fire with a tool they have never touched before.

You should have each extinguisher inspected by a professional yearly. If you are visited by OSHA and don’t have the extinguishers, or don’t have the inspection tags on them, you will pay a fine.