Workplace Safety Relies on Balanced Fire Protection

June 17, 2004
Workplace fire safety relies on the presence of a balanced fire protection approach, says Fred Goodnight, president of the Fire Equipment Manufacturers' Association (FEMA).

"One of the most critical components of a workplace safety program is fire protection. Now is an excellent time to either start a new safety program or reassess your current approach to fire protection to make sure that it is balanced and will take effect in the first critical minutes of a fire," Goodnight counsels.

He says balanced fire protection includes fire equipment products ranging from portable fire extinguishers and standpipe fire hose stations to pre-engineered suppression systems, plus an evacuation plan and employee training.

Goodnight believes that workplace safety hinges on a balanced fire protection plan that allows building occupants to respond to a fire in the first three minutes.

"When a fire is extinguished in the early stage, property loss is minimal, injuries are minimized, and lives are saved," he adds.

During the first few minutes of a fire, an employee's first defense is a portable fire extinguisher or a standpipe fire hose station. But employees should only fight a fire if these conditions are present:

  • The fire department has been called.
  • Everyone is safe.
  • The fire is small and does not appear to be spreading.
  • The fire is not between them and the exit.

National Safety Month is the perfect time to examine your organization's fire protection plan and take the following steps:

  • Determine the location of all the fire equipment in your building. For example, where is the closest fire extinguisher or hose rack to your desk?
  • Create an evacuation plan for all levels of your building. Where is the closest exit or stairwell in an emergency when the elevators may not be operating? Where is a designated meeting place outdoors?
  • Hold a meeting to discuss these items with your employees. Does everyone know how to react in case of fire? Who should call the fire department?
  • Offer training or resources to employees so that they can learn more about the fire protection equipment available to them. Contact your local fire department about supervising a fire extinguisher training event at your location.

An easy and effective way to train and educate employees is to provide them with training resources that are available online. For example, employees can learn about portable fire extinguishers and how to use them by visiting for an interactive overview of fire extinguishers. Visitors can complete a quiz to try to earn a training certificate.

Another interactive site dedicated to fire protection is, which offers a comprehensive review of standpipe fire hose stations: when to use them, how to operate them, and the different classes of this important fire protection product.

About the Author

Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith is the former content director of EHS Today, and is currently the EHSQ content & community lead at Intelex Technologies Inc. She has written about occupational safety and health and environmental issues since 1990.

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