Fire Safety

Fire Safety

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) establishes health and safety regulations that require employers to implement fire safety measures to reduce the risk of fire at the workplace.

These OSHA standards require employers to provide proper emergency exits, fire-fighting equipment, and employee training to prevent injuries and deaths from fire. The regulations also require some employers to develop and maintain emergency plans and fire prevention plans to prepare the workplace for fire outbreaks.

Why is it important to comply with the fire safety regulations?

Every workplace faces the risk that a fire may break out, especially facilities that handle flammable or hazardous materials. Ensuring that the workplace is properly equipped to detect a fire and has adequate evacuation routes is essential to prevent devastating injuries or death if there is a fire.

Employers who fail to provide adequate fire safety protection may be subject to OSHA’s civil fines and criminal penalties pursuant to the fire safety standard.

Important fire safety provisions

OSHA’s primary standards for workplace fire safety are contained in 29 CFR 1910 Subparts E and L. Subpart E provides requirements for exit routes, emergency action plans, and fire prevention plans. Subpart L details the workplace fire protection requirements for fire extinguishers, sprinklers, and alarm systems.

OSHA’s fire safety provisions can be summarized as 1) Fire Extinguishers ; 2) Emergency Exits; 3) Alarms and 4) Emergency Action and Fire Prevention Plans.

Fire Extinguishers:

Although not all workplaces are required to maintain fire extinguishers, employers must ensure that any fire extinguishers on-site are appropriate for the fire hazards that are present in the building. Employees that are expected to use this equipment must be trained on how to properly operate it. OSHA also requires employers to regularly inspect the fire extinguishers to ensure the equipment is in safe working condition.

Emergency Exits:

OSHA requires every workplace to have enough exits (at least two means of escape) that are suitable enough to allow everyone in the building to exit quickly. These exit routes must be free of obstructions and clearly marked with exit signs. In addition, the OSH Act prohibits blocking or locking fire doors.

Emergency Action and Fire Prevention Plans:

Some workplaces, such as those that contain highly hazardous chemicals, must be equipped with an emergency action plan that describes evacuation procedures. Where the employer plans to evacuate employees instead of having the workers fight the fire, there must be a written emergency action plan that describes evacuation routes and procedures. OSHA requires employers to update the emergency action plan as needed. Some OSHA standards also require a written fire prevention plan to minimize the risk of fire outbreaks. The fire prevention plan must include procedures for the storage and cleanup of flammable materials and for controlling workplace ignition sources. Employers must train workers on both the fire prevention and emergency action plans and make them available for employee review.

Alarms:

OSHA’s regulations contain design and maintenance requirements for fire alarm systems and suppression systems such as automatic sprinklers. When a suppression system is out of service, the facility must implement a temporary fire watch of trained employees. The temporary fire watch must be included in the emergency action and fire prevention plans. The employer must also post signs for any suppression systems that use potentially hazardous agents such as carbon dioxide to put out fires.

Importance of implementing an active regulatory watch on fire safety regulations

Given the prevalence of fire hazards at virtually every workplace, OSHA’s fire safety regulations are some of the more robust occupational standards detailed in the OSH Act. Since the consequences of insufficient fire protection measures can be devastating, employers should be up-to-date on the most current fire safety OSHA requirements to avoid preventable injuries and deaths from fire.

In addition to these federal fire safety standards imposed by the OSH Act, a facility that is located in one of the 28 OSHA-delegated states will be subject to state-specific fire safety standards or codes that may be more stringent than the federal requirements.

Learn more About

OSHA Laws and H&S Standards

Definitions

What is fire safety?

Fire safety is a set of practices that reduce the destruction caused by fire. OSHA’s fire safety measures are aimed at both preventing the start of a fire by implementing workplace controls and limiting the effects of fire after one begins.

What is a Fire Prevention Plan?

A fire prevention plan is a facility plan that describes the fuel sources (including hazardous materials) on site that could ignite or exacerbate a fire and any building systems in place to detect or mitigate a fire. Fire prevention plans must be in writing, be kept in the workplace, and be made available for employee review.

What is an Emergency Action Plan?

An emergency action plan is required by certain OSHA standards to document the evacuation routes and procedures at the workplace. Employers must put the emergency action plan into writing, train workers on its contents, and make it available for employee review.


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