Eliminate fire hazards while working from home
Employers have a duty of care to keep staff safe, which extends to the current situation that’s led many businesses to transition staff into working from home (WFH) environments for an indefinite period.
For organisations with a human resources department, employees may have received a work from home self-checklist to help them review their remote workspaces. While these documents often cover general recommendations on setting up a safe home office and consider things such as ergonomics and a process for reporting incidents, hazards and a change in the location of work undertaken, there is generally far less emphasis on how to manage fire safety hazards and an emergency evacuation plan.
With the amount of time spent at home likely to double for some, it’s important to protect these homes from the risk of fire and identify any potential fire hazards which may lead to an unexpected fire.
It only takes a few minutes for a home to be engulfed by fire and knowing what to do if a fire occurs can be lifesaving. Fire can also trigger an instant state of panic and alarmingly many people do not know how to respond due to a lack of planning and understanding around the correct procedure when a fire occurs.
To help prevent the risk of fire while working from home, which will become the ‘new normal’ for many people, we’ve prepared the following tips:
- Before dusting off the mini heaters to fend off the winter chill, ensure they are clean, in proper working order and are positioned at least one metre away from flammable objects or materials such as curtains. Using a direct power point as opposed to power boards or extension cables will also help to minimise the risk of fire.
- Check and replace all damaged and fraying electrical cords on electrical equipment, including computers and laptops. If pets are in the house, ensure electrical cords are kept out of reach so they aren’t tempted to chew on them.
- Be mindful of overloading power outlets with double adaptors as the power socket can overheat. Instead, use a power board with a built-in surge protector to safeguard against an electrical fire. If possible, place power boards on their side to prevent dust or other material from falling into the connection, which can cause fires.
- Handheld devices that are left charging on or under the bed should be unplugged as soon as they are fully charged. If left for long periods of time, devices and outlets may emit substantial heat which can cause the device to overheat and spark a fire.
- As many house fires start in the kitchen, don’t be tempted to leave stovetops and other cooking appliances unattended. Working from home can cause many distractions, so if you are cooking during the working day, remember to switch off the appliance before leaving the room.
The cooler months can also increase the risk of certain hazards that can lead to house fires:
- Electrical appliances including electric blankets and portable heaters are used more frequently with many Australian households commonly operating multiple portable heaters in various parts of the house at the same time. Used incorrectly or without care, this can increase the risk of house fires.
- Clothes dryers are also typically relied on more frequently during winter and are notorious for causing house fires. Make sure the lint basket is cleaned after every use.
- For those with an open fireplace, ensure a spark screen is positioned in front of the fire to prevent embers or sparks from escaping the fireplace.
It is also important to ensure homes have working smoke detectors installed and they are tested regularly. If the smoke alarms are more than 10 years old, they should be replaced with new photoelectric models that interconnect to others within the home.
A fire extinguisher and fire blanket can be essential for protecting the home against a fire. Make sure the equipment is included in the home’s emergency kit and that everyone living in the home knows where they are stored and what to use in different types of emergencies. Fire blankets can now be ordered directly through our online store.
Depending on the type of residence you are living in, a fire escape plan is critical to ensuring everyone knows what to do in an emergency. Each plan will depend on household members, those who require assistance and the best way to exit a dwelling or apartment block.
Ensuring your home is well prepared to prevent or deal with a fire emergency is paramount to the safety of not only your home but also neighbours. With more people living and working from home, it’s more important than ever to ensure your home is fire safe.