Maintaining fire safety in the workplace

Brooks Australia

Wednesday, 10 May, 2023

Maintaining fire safety in the workplace

Without proper training in place, workers are at risk of being harmed in the event of a fire.

In 2019, a total of 5059 claims were lodged for fire damage to commercial properties in Australia in 2019 resulting in $469 million in losses. However, while fire can inflict considerable losses to infrastructure, income, productivity and inventory, fire safety also needs to at the forefront for businesses.

Brooks Australia is urging organisations to ensure that they are up to date with their fire safety plans and prevention measures, including adequately serviced and functional fire alarm systems. Businesses are also recommended to provide staff with adequate training to help them memorise the emergency evacuation plan, and to ensure that they have fire equipment installed for specific fire risks.

The latest data shows that there were over 400 structural fire incidents occurring in offices, with a further 1029 occurring in retail spaces — such as shops, restaurants and cafes — in 2019. Accommodation and food services (20%); agriculture, forestry and fishing (16%); and manufacturing (14%) account for the highest incidence rates of fire, the most common cause for structural fires was electrical failure, which occurred in one in five incidents.

Cathy Brand, CEO of Brooks Australia, said while knowing what to do when a fire occurs is critical, perhaps the most significant element of fire safety training is prevention.

“Fire safety training isn’t usually high on the priority list of businesses as they believe that the risk is low or that it won’t happen to them, but nobody is immune from fire. What most businesses don’t recognise is that fire affects every major aspect of their organisation from property and stock damage, the loss of revenue and cost to repair damages to the inability to operate and employees unable to work,” she said.

“So there is no better time to practise safety in the workplace than now. If employees throughout the building are adequately prepared to prevent fires from the beginning, they are going to be able to reduce the total risk of a fire from ever starting.”

It is recommended that businesses across the country invest in basic fire safety training and equipment, as it can significantly increase the chances of surviving a fire emergency unscathed. Employees should be trained to effectively prevent fire risks and hazards from occurring in the workplace.

One way this can be done is by using Brooks Australia’s ‘Fire safety checklist for businesses’ to ensure the organisation is maintaining a clean workspace and wiring, avoiding circuit overloads, keeping machinery clean and dry, and preventing faulty wiring or exposed wires.

Jason Lofh, Systems Manager at Brooks Australia, said one of the best investments businesses can make is ensuring there are working smoke detectors.

“Smoke detectors are compulsory in all Australian businesses under the Australian Standard and must be installed within five metres from the wall and within 10 metres from each other. However, while having a smoke detectors is required by law, businesses must remember to regularly check them to ensure they’re functioning properly,” Lohf said.

“Ensuring that smoke detectors are maintained can save lives — regular testing and cleaning of the devices should be part of any business's safety protocol.”

With today’s buildings becoming more complex in both physical layout and functionality, the demands on the fire systems protecting them have never been greater and they must be adaptable to suit a wide range of building applications.

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