OSHA Fire Safety for your Workplace

Fire Safety in the workplace is something that is commonly touched once and forgotten. This is the quickest way to get burned.

OSHA’s fact sheet answers commonly asked questions and items you may not be aware of.

What should employers do to protect workers from fire hazards?
Employers should train workers about fire hazards in the workplace and about what to do in a fire emergency. If you want your workers to evacuate, you should train them on how to escape. If you expect your workers to use firefighting equipment, you should give them appropriate equipment and train them to use the equipment safely.

What does OSHA require for emergency fire exits?
Every workplace must have enough exits suitably located to enable everyone to get out of the facility quickly. Considerations include the type of structure, the number of persons exposed, the fire protection available, the type of industry involved, and 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. Delayed opening of fire doors, however, 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.

 

Employers covered by these standards must implement plans to minimize the frequency of evacuations. All fire prevention plans must:
■ Be available for employee review

■ Include housekeeping procedures for storage
and cleanup of flammable materials and
flammable waste.

■ Address handling and packaging of flammable
waste. (Recycling of flammable waste such as paper is encouraged.)

■ Cover procedures for controlling workplace
ignition sources such as smoking, welding, and burning.

■ Provide for proper cleaning and maintenance
of heat producing equipment such as burners,
heat exchangers, boilers, ovens, stoves, and
fryers and require storage of flammables away
from this equipment.

■ Inform workers of the potential fire hazards
of their jobs and plan procedures.

■ Require plan review with all new employees
and with all employees whenever the plan
is changed.

 

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What are the rules for fixed extinguishing systems?
Fixed extinguishing systems throughout the workplace are among the most reliable firefighting tools. These systems detect fires, sound an alarm, and send water to the fire and heat.

To meet OSHA standards employers who have these systems must:

■ Substitute (temporarily) a fire watch of trained
employees to respond to fire emergencies
when a fire suppression system is out of service.

■ Ensure that the watch is included in the fire
prevention plan and the emergency action plan.

■ Post signs for systems that use agents.

When required, employers must develop emergency action plans that:

■ 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 plant 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.

■ Require employer review of the plan with new
employees and with all employees whenever the plan is changed.

How can you get more information on safety and health?
OSHA has various publications, standards, technical assistance, and compliance tools to help you, and offers extensive assistance through workplace consultation, voluntary protection
programs, strategic partnerships, alliances, state plans, grants, training, and education. OSHA’s Safety and Health Program Management Guidelines (Federal Register 54:3904–3916, January 26, 1989) detail elements critical to the development of a successful safety and health management system. This and other information are available on OSHA’s website. http://www.osha.gov