Fire Safety at Work

Here is a real thought provoker: Do you realise that most offices exceed fire regulations given the large amount of loose and scattered paper covering their desks, book shelves, tables, chairs, etc.

Don’t believe me? As a rule of thumb every kilogram of paper has the same energy volatility as 4 litres of petrol. That means if you set fire to a 1 kilo pile of paper you have the same result as tossing a match into a plastic bucket half full of unleaded.

So, if a fire were to occur in an office building, the offices with scattered paper would sustain the same amount of damage as if someone had tossed litres of petrol in their work space. In the event of a fire, paper stored in cupboards and filing cabinets are many times less volatile than those loose sheets or files so often kept on desks or in open trays in any busy office.

Got your attention? Good. But now how do you get the message across to others? Here is a group activity that will really get people thinking and hopefully start a clean desk craze at your work.

First do some homework. Find something like an employee manual or procedure handbook that you know everyone is familiar with and put it on the scales to find out how much it weighs. For example, like lots of businesses, you might have an internal telephone directory that everyone uses. It sits on the desk or within reach and has become part of the background. Lets say you have one of these phone directories at your workplace and when you weigh it you find it weighs exactly half a kilogram.

At the next safety or compliance meeting relay the facts about the rule of thumb. Have your telephone directory and a 2 litre plastic milk bottle. Hold up the telephone directory first as an example of paper that is found on every desk. Next, ask them to close their eyes and visualize the area in their office that had the most loose and scattered paper. The entire group will laugh as they all identify the areas with the most need for housekeeping. When you ask them to open their eyes, you are still holding up the safety handbook but now you are holding the bottle in the other hand. Explain to them how it equals an imaginary 2 litres of petrol and that is how much fuel is in just the telephone directory.

Ask them estimate how many “litres of fuel” that the area they had visualized might contain. After this exercise all of the participants should become very interested in learning how a clean desk policy will improve the situation and reduce the risks in your workplace.

About the Author

Safety Concepts is an online resource providing up to date insights and covering issues in the field of Workplace Safety.

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