Ultimate Guide to a Successful Fire Safety Training Strategy for Warehouses in 2021

Warehouse fires are a real threat to worker safety and significant financial liability for companies worldwide. Despite strict workplace fire regulations, fires cost businesses more than $2.3 billion annually in the US alone, with fire departments responding to 1,210 warehouse fires per year on average. This makes it necessary for logistics companies to execute fire safety training, which not only meets but exceeds industry standards. Updating your fire safety training efficiently will save your business time and money and will keep your workers safe and prepared in the event of an emergency. In this ultimate fire safety training guide, we’ll:

Why Do You Need Fire Safety Training

According to OSHA, on average, workplace fires and explosions kill 200 and injure more than 5,000 workers each year. These figures illustrate the huge risk potential that fires pose to companies. Implementing a successful fire safety training program is crucial to keeping your employees safe and showing them that your company values the lives of its workers above all else. 

A professional work environment, ongoing training, and company culture are all critical criteria valued by current and potential employees. Working in a clean, safe, and dignified workplace motivates workers to achieve their full professional potential. Moreover, effective fire safety training:

  • Must be implemented by all warehouses in accordance with OSHA fire safety standards.

According to OSHA: “An employer must: Provide an educational program to familiarize employees with the general principles of fire extinguisher use and the hazards involved with incipient stage fire fighting. [29 CFR 1910.157(g)(1)] Provide this education when employees are first hired and once a year thereafter.” 

Failure to do so can result in fines and other legal action.

  • Need not be a complicated or expensive process. Setting up a well-planned training strategy will help your company save time in avoiding unnecessary, ineffective, and repetitive seminars. Having a fire safety training program in place keeps your workers safe and covers your company’s legal liability in the event of a fire. 
  • Is an irreplaceable component of overall worker wellbeing. If workers feel secure and confident that they’ve been properly trained to respond effectively in an emergency, they’ll enjoy greater job satisfaction.

Part I: Fire Prevention Training

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), yearly warehouse fire costs an average of $155 million in property damages per year.

Fortunately, most warehouse fire safety techniques are simple and painless to implement, so long as management is diligent in their enforcement and workers have a clear understanding of the role they play in the health and safety of their fellow team members.

Clearly Marked Smoking/Non-Smoking Areas

It may seem obvious, but smoking in prohibited areas is a huge yet entirely avoidable risk within all warehouse complexes. Make sure that all designated smoking areas are well marked and that every employee knows exactly where they are located. “No Smoking” signs in prohibited areas are a must.

Routine Equipment Checks

According to the NFPA, following arson, the most common causes of warehouse fires were malfunctioning electrical distribution and lighting. Encouraging employees to follow all protocols regarding turning the equipment off/on as well as reporting any damaged outlets, wires or lighting fixtures to management is another simple way to prevent fires.

Part II: Emergency Preparedness and Evacuation

Despite the best fire prevention training protocols, accidents happen and unfortunately, non-residential fires are on the rise. Should a fire occur in your warehouse, your best strategy is to be prepared to follow fire escape procedures.

Placement of Fire Safety Equipment

Simply knowing where fire extinguishers, alarms, escape routes, and assembly points are located will go a long way in keeping your employees calm and enable them to take swift action. Placing signage indicating the location of all fire safety equipment as well as along escape routes is a simple and inexpensive way to help workers keep calm in the event of a fire. 

Frequent Fire Drills

Fire drills are an invaluable tool in helping your workers memorize escape routes and the location of fire extinguishers and alarms.

Hands-On Training

Beyond the traditional drill system, warehouse employees must undergo training on how to use fire safety equipment and fire extinguishers. While hands-on experience is second to none, digital training methods can efficiently provide effective training that is less time-consuming.

Fire Safety Training Pitfalls

Health and safety training is a common pain point across all industries. It interrupts workflow schedules, hinders trainer productivity, needs constant updating, and must be repeated annually. The common challenges within the logistics industry further complicate health and safety protocols for managers for 3 key reasons:

  • High Employee Turnover: Frequent employee turnover makes the need for frequent fire drills imperative to ensure that each worker will always be up to speed on safety protocols. Ensuring that a frequently changing work team is always properly trained in the latest safety procedures means recurring training sessions and increased time away from operational duties for trainers.
  • Disrupted Operation Schedules: As any warehouse manager knows, staying on schedule and constantly adjusting to fluctuating workflows is the foundation of any successful logistics operation. Now imagine having to conduct fire prevention training during peak holiday seasons or unexpected high traffic times, and you can see how imperative it is to have a simple and effective training program.
  • Multicultural language barriers: The culturally diverse nature of the logistics workforce means that training materials often need to be translated and any hands-on training may require fellow employees to translate demonstrations in person.

Keeping a highly diverse and frequently changing team up-to-date on the latest safety regulations can seem all-but-impossible, especially during peak work volume periods. 

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Severe Consequences for Substandard Fire Safety Training Programs

On top of property damage costs, if a fire does break out and post-accident investigations reveal improperly trained staff, businesses can:

  • Face prosecution
  • Pay hefty fines
  • Get slapped with lawsuits  

According to OSHA, failure to implement fire safety training for employees is the third-most frequently cited fire hazard violation. Falling within the ‘Serious’ violation category, it carries a penalty of up to $13,494 per violation.

Even in the absence of fire, failure to implement fire and safety regulations can result in:

  • Staff termination
  • Damaged corporate reputation and a lack of trust among its employees

In an industry plagued with an existing high rate of turnover, prospective workers won’t think twice about looking elsewhere for a job rather than risk working in an unsafe environment. Effective warehouse training programs can foster a sense of camaraderie between management and team members, making employees feel that they’re a valuable part of a community in a sector that often overlooks this. When workers feel their company appreciates them, they’ll show up to work ready to give their best. 

From Pain Point to Gain Point

With a few tweaks, fire safety training can be an opportunity to promote teamwork and demonstrate to your employees that their health and safety matter to your company. Here are a few tips on making the most of your team’s training experience:

  • DO show your workers that their safety matters most.
  • DON’T pretend like health and safety training is fun. Be real with your workers and openly acknowledge that while no one likes fire drills/training, everyone needs to fully participate.
  • DO explain to workers why fire safety training is important to the company and why it should be to them – a team depends on and takes care of one another.
  • DON’T assume that routine protocols are always observed. Perform a daily safety check at the beginning and end of each shift.
  • DO encourage workers to take ownership of their safety responsibilities by making them feel like invaluable members of the team and holding everyone accountable. 
  • DO show workers real-life examples of what happens when there is a lack of fire safety training. This can be done through videos or other educational materials. 

The logistics industry never stops moving and your company’s time, money, and reputation are too precious to waste on poor fire prevention training.

Download the Warehouse Fire Safety Checklist here