Preventing Fires in the Workplace

By Peter DePaolis

The number of people killed in workplace fires in the United States increased 103 percent from 2009 to 2010, jumping from 53 deaths in 2009 to 109 deaths in 2010, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Each year in the U.S., fires, and explosions kill an estimated 200 workers and injure more than 5,000 others. In 1995 alone, there were over 75,000 workplace fires, costing businesses in excess of $2.3 billion. If you were injured or someone you love died in a workplace fire, an experienced Washington, D.C. personal injury attorney can help you seek compensation for your burn injuries or the wrongful death of your loved one.

Minimizing the Risk of Fire-Related Injuries and Deaths

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that employers take certain steps to prevent fatalities and injuries caused by workplace fires. For instance, all workplaces must have enough exits for everyone to get out of the building quickly. These exits cannot be blocked and must be suitably located and clearly marked. The number of required emergency exits varies depending on the size and composition of the building, the maximum occupancy, the fire protection available, and the type of work performed in the building. Most employers are required to have an emergency action plan and/or a fire prevention plan as well. OSHA also encourages employers to install fixed extinguishing systems (like automatic sprinklers) and has standards that employers must follow if these systems are installed.
If your employer fails to adhere to applicable OSHA standards and you or a loved one is injured or killed in a workplace fire as a result, you may be entitled to compensation.

How You Can Prevent Workplace Fires

You can take steps as an employee to prevent workplace fires, including:

  • Properly storing chemicals
  • Not placing flammable or combustible materials near ignition sources
  • Regularly inspecting chemical containers for leaks or damage
  • If a flammable liquid spills, cleaning it up immediately
  • Inspecting electrical cords and not using equipment with damaged cords
  • Not overloading electrical outlets
  • Safely disposing of cigarettes and only smoking in designated areas
  • Regularly cleaning equipment, keeping it free of oil and dust
  • Making sure you know where fire extinguishers are located and how to use them
  • Participating in fire safety drills
  • Reporting fire or explosion hazards to your employer, including foul odors and damaged electrical equipment or cords

Even when all employees are proactive about preventing workplace fires, accidents can still happen. If you or a loved one was injured or killed in a workplace fire, contact a qualified Washington, D.C. personal injury lawyer today to learn about your legal rights.

About the Author
Peter DePaolis joined the firm in 1980 and has since represented a large number of individuals involved in automobile collisions, truck accidents, bus crashes, defective products, and medical malpractice cases. A significant portion of Mr. DePaolis’ practice is devoted to working on behalf of people suffering from asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other asbestos-related cancers. He has led his firm’s fight against the asbestos industry and has recovered over $30 million in damages for asbestos victims and their families.