Effective Fire Safety Procedures

According to NFPA, over 18,000 fires were reported by mercantile and small business last year creating $852,387,668 damage and causing over 300 civilian injuries. This is causing concern for businesses regarding their action plan.

A Plan

A fire safety procedures plan describes a written set of plans to be taken in the event of a fire emergency. Responsibility should be assigned to each action. Each set of plans should be customized; each recommended action and responsibility will be different depending on the facility, the type of work, the type of materials being used, and the numbers of people present.

Disorganized evacuation and reactive emergency response lead to confusion, increased property damage and injuries. Effective fire safety procedures and proper employee training leads to reduction in injuries and damage caused by the fire.

OSHA requires all business facilities who have employees that need to evacuate during a fire or other emergency to have a written Emergency Action Plan. The plan should include procedures and actions to be taken in response to emergency evacuation. OSHA requires that an emergency action plan be in place when certain conditions like the following exist:

  • Process Safety Management of Highly Hazardous Chemicals, 1910.119
  • Fixed Extinguishing Systems, General, 1910.160 (When the extinguishing system could pose a significant health hazard)
  • Fire Detection Systems, 1910.164 (When fire detector actuation is delayed more than 30 seconds)
  • Grain Handling, 1910.272
  • Ethylene Oxide, 1910.1047
  • Methylenedianiline, 1910.1050
  • 1,3 Butadiene, 1910.1051

Start with an Assessment

Conduct a fire risk assessment by creating a facility-specific fire safety procedure covering the following:

  • Identify any hazards
  • Sources of ignition
  • Identify persons at risk from fire
  • Route escape from the building
  • Identify Fire warning systems
  • Locate Fire-fighting facilities
  • Clarify fire safety procedures
  • Review controls in place, state recommendations for necessary improvements

Using your Assessment

Use what you have learned from your risk assessment to describe the best ways for employees to respond to a fire alarm or fire emergency. Take into account your specific work site, the building’s structural features, and existing exits. The OSHA requirements for an emergency action plan are:

  • Describe what to do when a fire is discovered.
  • Establish routes and procedures to be followed for evacuations.
  • Establish areas of refuge and specific plans for evacuating those areas of refuge.
  • Provide procedures for evacuating disabled employees.
  • Establish a system to account for all evacuated employees.
  • Establish conditions and processes under which employees will fight a fire (if any.)
  • Require appropriate firefighting training.
  • Require the placement of any necessary firefighting equipment.
  • Establish procedures for the shutdown of critical plant equipment and provide for the evacuation of any employees who stay behind for such shutdowns.
  • Identify the preferred methods for alerting employees to a fire emergency.
  • Require a working alarm system to be present throughout the workplace. Employees must know how to notify proper authorities such as fire, medical and/or rescue services.

Always combine procedures with employee training. Periodic retraining should be enforced, and all new employees should be trained fire safety procedures. Safety procedures should always be readily available for employee review.

The Best Course of Action

In cases of fire emergency, the best course of action is to evacuate the building and let professional firefighters control the fire. If there are circumstances in which you choose to place and use portable fire extinguishers, those situations must be detailed in your fire safety procedures and you must provide hands-on training using the extinguishers. However, OSHA does not require the use of portable fire extinguishers. OSHA does require that every workplace has enough emergency exits and that the exits are suitably located to enable quick evacuation for everyone. The factors that decide the number of exits are the type of structure, the number of persons exposed, the type and extent of fire protection available, the type of industry, and the height and type of construction of the building. Fire safety procedures should clearly designate exit routes and mark secondary exit routes. Evacuation assembly points should be established so that everyone that has evacuated is identified.

For assistance regarding fire safety implementation, see our consulting services.

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