Avoiding fire disasters in the workplace is an essential responsibility of any business owner. Implementing and consistently adhering to basic safety precautions should be of utmost priority. Knowing what your obligations are as an employer is key, which makes understanding OSHA fire safety standards paramount. Familiarizing yourself with these regulations will ensure you create a secure work environment and guarantee worker safety, minimizing potential hazards that can cause injury or loss of life. Read on to learn more about OSHA’s fire safety requirements and why they are so important for your business!
OSHA Fire Safety Requirements
OSHA Fire Safety requirements include:
- Adequate exit routes for evacuation during fires and other emergencies [29 CFR 1910.34)].
- Employers must provide exit routes in accordance with OSHA Standard on Exit Routes 29 CFR 1910 Subpart E, including:
- An adequate number of exit routes [29 CFR 1910.36(b)].
- Exits must discharge to a safe area [29 CFR 1910.36(c)].
- Exits must be of adequate capacity and width [29 CFR 1910.36(f) and 29 CFR 1910.36(g)].
- Exits must be clearly lighted and marked [29 CFR 1910.37(b)].
- An employee alarm system is provided [29 CFR 1910.37(b)] and complies with 29 CFR 1910.165.
Every workplace must have enough exits suitably located to enable everyone to get out of the facility quickly.
Considerations include the following:
- type of structure
- the number of persons exposed
- the fire protection available
- the type of industry involved
- the height and type of construction of the building or structure
In addition, fire doors must not be blocked or locked when employees are inside. However, delayed opening of fire doors is permitted when an approved alarm system is integrated into the fire door design. Exit routes from buildings must be free of obstructions and properly marked with exit signs. See 29 CFR Part 1910.36 for details about all requirements.
Emergency Action Plans (EAPs)
Emergency and Fire Action Plans must be provided by 29 CFR 1910.38 when required by another OSHA standard.
When required, employers must develop emergency action plans that:
- Include procedures for evacuating patients.
- Describe the routes for workers to use and procedures to follow.
- Account for all evacuated employees.
- Remain available for employee review.
- Include procedures for evacuating disabled employees.
- Address evacuation of employees who stay behind to shut down critical equipment.
- Include preferred means of alerting employees to a fire emergency.
- Provide for an employee alarm system throughout the workplace.
- Require an alarm system that includes voice communication or sound signals such as bells, whistles, or horns.
- Make the evacuation signal known to employees.
- Ensure emergency training occurs annually.
- Require employer review of the plan with new employees and with all employees whenever the plan is changed.
Types of Evacuation
Time frames for evacuation may differ depending on the nature of the threat and the amount of time that can be taken to prepare for moving hospital patients. Specific types of evacuations are as follows:
- Immediate: “Emergency move” – evacuate immediately or patients and staff may die; no time to prepare.
- Rapid: Evacuate as quickly as possible; limited time to prepare (1 to 2 hours); follow procedures.
- Gradual: No immediate danger; sufficient time to evacuate (sometimes hours to several days)
- Prepare Only: Do not move patients, but you can start to prepare for evacuation.
Fire Prevention Plans (FPPs)
While the emergency action plan addresses what to do in response to a fire, fire prevention addresses what to do to prevent a fire in the first place. Here are the minimum provisions of a fire prevention plan:
- List of all major fire hazards, proper handling and storage procedures for hazardous materials, potential ignition sources and their control, and the type of fire protection equipment necessary to control each major hazard.
- Procedures to control accumulations of flammable and combustible waste materials.
- Procedures for regular maintenance of safeguards installed on heat-producing equipment to prevent the accidental ignition of combustible materials.
- Name or job title of employees responsible for maintaining equipment to prevent or control sources of ignition or fires.
- Name or job title of employees responsible for the control of fuel source hazards. In addition, when you assign employees to a job, you must inform them of any fire hazards they may be exposed to. You must also review with each employee those parts of the fire prevention plan necessary for self-protection.