Facilities managers have countless responsibilities at work, but one of the most important is helping to keep employees and property safe — and that includes fire prevention.
“You got to keep a pulse on the organization and know where those potential risks are,” says Travis Dodson, a certified facilities manager in North Carolina and member of the International Facility Management Association. “It’s being diligent in making sure you’re creating a safe environment for staff.”
No one expects a fire — but they do happen, even at work.
In fact, the National Fire Protection Association says that fire departments respond to about 3,300 office fires every year.
Facilities managers play an important role in helping to prevent fires.
There are obvious precautions to take, such as checking smoke detectors.
But what about fire hazards that are less expected?
Keep these five in mind.
Number 1: Clutter
Piles of paper and stacks of boxes can fuel fires, and too much stuff can block exits if people need to escape.
Review items you’re storing on-site to make sure they’re actually needed, and dispose of what you don’t need.
Keep an eye on storage areas and common spaces — when clutter piles up, clear it out.
Number 2: Power strips and extension cords
Look for power strips in use, and make sure they’re plugged directly into a wall outlet, not into an extension cord… or — even worse — another power strip.
If an employee is stringing power strips and extension cords together, provide the right equipment to fix the problem—such as one power strip that has its own long cord.
Number 3: Compromised fire-rated barriers
Walls, ceilings and floors can be designed to resist flames and smoke, but these barriers can be compromised when new pipes, wires or cables are installed.
Talk to contractors about maintaining the integrity of the barrier during renovations.
Also, keep all electrical panels tightly closed — open doors can allow dust and debris into your electrical system.
Number 4: Employee appliances
Employees might bring in their own appliances, such as coffeemakers or space heaters. Require that employees request appliances through the facilities department.
Then you can make the purchase for them, selecting a safe product — such as space heaters that turn off automatically if they tip over.
Number 5: Sneaky smokers
Even if you have a smoke-free campus, that doesn’t mean everyone is following the rules. Discarded cigarettes in waste baskets or in the grass outside can quickly create a fire.
Be on the lookout for rulebreakers and work with human resources to send out warnings.
If you allow smoking in a designated area, make sure there are enough receptacles for cigarette butts.
By accounting for these less-expected hazards, you can help keep your facility — and the people who work there — safe from fire.