Electrical problems that lead to fires in commercial buildings are devastating, resulting in injuries, deaths, and loss of property. Even when an electrical fire doesn’t completely destroy a building, it is likely to cause more extensive property damage than fires caused by other sources.
Here are 7 tips to help you and your staff keep your commercial property safe from an electrical fire.
1) Institute a safety education program.
Make sure every employee who handles electrical equipment and wiring is knowledgeable about safety measures.
2) Learn to identify electrical hazards.
Cords that are frayed, unsafe outlets, signs of sparking and overloaded circuits are all dangerous. Know what to look for and make regular safety checks throughout the facility.
3) Keep the office decluttered and organized.
Keep piles of paper out of walkways and away from outlets. Don’t run cords over the walkway, where they get trampled on and easily damaged. Make sure combustible materials like books and boxes are stored safely.
4) Keep extinguishers and pull stations unblocked.
Keep fire extinguishers clearly visible and easily accessible. That also goes for fire alarm pull stations.
5) Deal with exposed wiring immediately.
Overhead light fixtures and wall outlets need to be covered, with no exposed wiring. Any problems should be reported right away.
6) Use extension cords occasionally, not in place of outlets.
Extension cords, even heavy duty ones, are no substitute for a wall outlet. They are not meant to be permanent solutions. The one exception is a power strip, UL approved, for devices like computers and printers.
7) Don’t let amateurs try to fix an electrical problem or add capacity.
Don’t let office or factory staff try to fix a problem by opening the electrical panel box doors to flip the breaker switches. This can easily result in an arc flash and an electrical overload.
In addition, the electrical panels should never be blocked with boxes or equipment. If an emergency happens, responders will need to access the panels immediately. Make sure there is always an adequate walkway in front of the panels.
8) Understand OSHA rules for electrical devices and follow them.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has specific requirements to ensure safety in commercial buildings. You are legally required to follow the rules, which are made by experts for your safety. When followed, they help protect you, your workers and your property.
Small businesses can protect themselves if a fire does occur by carrying adequate commercial property insurance. The cost is enormous for replacing the building, office furnishings, electronic devices, and manufacturing equipment, as well as making it through the difficult post-fire period. Business insurance can mean the difference between staying in business and having to close down.