Comprehensive fire safety knowledge is paramount and contributes to confidence in handling an emergency situation. HSE Coordinator Sebastian Wojtas (fourth from left) leads Acoem Australasia ‘s Melbourne team members in annual fire safety training.
With an Australian summer that is set to have a high risk of drought, climate extremes and bushfires in full swing, fire training is more important than ever. Correct guidance to extinguish a fire could mean not only lowering risk and continued safety of everyone in the building, but could also be the difference between life and death.
Fire Safety Triangle – all three of these elements need to be present to start a fire, however, if one element is removed, the fire should be able to be put out.
Summer drastically increases the risk of bushfires. Awareness, knowing what to do when a fire starts and having the confidence to act quickly could save lives in the home or workplace. Fires escalate very quickly and a fast response time is integral to reducing overall risk. This means knowing the basics of fire safety and what creates the fire in the first place.
There are different ignition and fuel sources for fires, however they all come back to the Fire Safety Triangle – oxygen, heat and fuel all need to be present. Fires have an overall negative effect on the environment, not only for flames destroying native flora and fauna, but also for potential smoke inhalation and overall air quality. Another major threat to the environment is wastewater and residue from larger fires. This runoff can flow into storm water drains and heavily impact local water quality.
Awareness & knowledge increase confidence
Warden training is an integral part of managing fire safety. The responsibilities of a fire warden include assessing the situation, keeping calm under pressure, leading people out of the building to a designated area and showing leadership in challenging situations. Staff in the warden’s area should also know about the role, in case the designated warden is not in the vicinity and others can step in as needed.
Internal training is run in person at Acoem Australasia once a year. It is topped up with videos and reading for further education, however face to face is essential, as it shows wardens and staff how to use tools at their disposal, such as extinguishers, and get first-hand experience. Getting a feel for using these items and having a group of people all on the same wavelength increases the chance of a good outcome in case of emergency.
Extinguisher training includes giving a snapshot of what all different types of fires look and act like and trialling CO2 on a fire. This gives participants real experience on how to handle a situation.
Acoem Australasia Product Assembly Technician Jeremiah Banquesio puts out a blaze
Mitigating dangers in the workplace
Fire drills are an important part of mitigating risk in the workplace. Knowing what to look for and how to identify it is relevant in the workplace and everyday life, as fires can happen anywhere (e.g. a car fire caused by a leaking fuel line). Ignition sources next to fuel sources, such as a power outlet next to a ream of paper, or even dry grass on a hot day, can set off a powerful blaze if not controlled.
Paper and out-of-date or non-tested kitchen appliances are the most common causes of fires in the workplace. Electrical fires are also common, often due to broken or frayed phone chargers. Other significant risks in the workplace include gas bottles and old power outlets that trip out by a spark running through them. However flammable gas type fires are decreasing thanks to better technology such as auto shut-off valves.
Different extinguishers are used for different fires. Chemical powder is good for almost all fires, except it is corrosive. CO2 carbon dioxide extinguishers are used for electrical fires, cooling and cleaning without damaging items. However, selection is made depending on urgency and necessity if there are time restraints.
Acoem Australasia holds Australian Standard General Safety AS 4801 accreditation.