Talking about fire safety and practicing fire drills at the workplace is not enough preparation to protect employees from fire. The first protection OSHA requires against fire is a prevention plan—in writing. All employees need to be aware of the plan and it must be easily accessible. The only time a fire prevention plan is not required in writing by OSHA is if the employer has 10 or fewer employees.
OSHA has five requirements for a written fire prevention plan:
- List all major fire hazards, proper handling and storage procedures for hazardous materials (which are flammable), potential ignition causes, and the type of fire protection equipment necessary to control each 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.
- The names or job titles of employees responsible for maintaining equipment to prevent or control sources of ignition of fires.
- The names or job titles of employees responsible for the control of fuel source hazards.
The following outline is an example of a fire prevention plan for your own workplace. Choose what is most appropriate for your situation. The entire example is not required by OSHA in the manner outlined—but it will provide a good starting point for you.
Create an outline of Management, Supervisors, and Employees responsibilities for your fire prevention plan. This may include a schedule of sprinklers and fire suppressant system inspections. Identify who is responsible for handling storage, monitoring, and maintenance of flammable storage. Ensure you identify different plant or warehouse responsibilities and outline the difference in handling of flammable chemicals or other materials. Decide who is in charge of any training on the subject and how to track this.
It’s a good idea to classify all types of materials:
- Class A – wood, paper, cloth.
- Class B – flammable gases, liquids, and greases.
- Class C – electrical equipment or materials near electrically powered equipment.
- Class D— volatile metals such as magnesium, zirconium, potassium, and sodium.
Remove all non-essential ignition sources where employees store or use flammable materials.
- Ensure open flame sources (heaters, welding torches, or ovens) are away from operations involving flammables.
- Do not allow the storage or handling of flammable materials in areas where chemical ignition sources (switches and circuit breakers) are operating.
- Sparking tools must not be allowed in areas where employees store or handle flammables.
- Cutting or welding operations cannot come into contact with flammable liquid containers.
Make sure to understand and follow guidelines for the storage of hazardous materials. Storage for materials that can contribute to the flammability of another material, such as oxidizers and peroxides, should be in an area away from flammable materials.
Train designated employees or management on using fire extinguishers. These tools can be effective for fighting fires in their inception stage. Extinguishers used properly have saved lives and property. Proper selection, inspection, and maintenance of fire extinguishers are critical for effectiveness. Designate individuals or a team to ensure that fire extinguishers are placed in conspicuous locations, easily accessible, and fully charged and operable at all times.
Fire Safety Housekeeping
Designated individuals, typically a safety committee or supervisors, are responsible for ensuring compliance with the company’s Fire Safety Programs and communicating procedures with all employees. Housekeeping, access to fire extinguishers, emergency evacuations, and proper storage of chemicals, are addressed when regular inspections take place.
Exits need to be clearly marked as fire or emergency exits and be easily accessible. They should never be obstructed. All doors or passageways that do not lead to an exit, but are used as storage, restrooms, or break rooms must be identified. All exit signs must be self-illuminating or illuminated by an external light source. For persons with disabilities, supervisors are responsible for assisting disabled workers during an emergency evacuation. They must have an alternate to help in the case of that supervisor’s absence. The company must maintain a list of persons with disabilities in the HR or Safety Manager’s office.
Fire Emergency Procedures
When a fire is discovered, the nearest alarm should be activated immediately to notify all building occupants.
- Only fight a fire if the fire department has been notified and or if the fire is small and confined to its point of origin; if you have an escape route available and fight with your back to the exit. Use a proper, fully functioning fire extinguisher if you are trained on it.
- Leave your work area if you hear a fire alarm. Close all windows and doors, and turn off any gas jets.
- A roll call must be performed once all occupants have evacuated the building and are in the company’s designated fire emergency area.