The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires facilities to have a detailed fire prevention plan when applicable standards require it. However, the agency “strongly recommends” that all facilities develop and implement a plan. How does your facility’s fire prevention plan stack up?
OSHA’s fact sheet on fire and rescue services provides tips and checklists for protecting workers in shipyards. But the tips are not just applicable in one industry; other employers may see similar hazards in their workplaces and find the advice useful.
In any workplace where welding, grinding, torch cutting, and similar activities occur near combustible materials, small fires can occur and quickly get out of control.
Are You Prepared for an Emergency?
You can ensure that your facility and workers are prepared for any emergency by following some commonsense tips:
- Whether you are required to or not, have a written fire safety plan that covers policies for fire, rescue, and emergency response. Review and update the plan at least annually.
- Train your workers on the fire safety plan, including hazards, controls, fire safety, health rules, and emergency procedures. Workers designated to fight fires must be trained on the fire safety plan’s written operating procedures on a quarterly basis. Employee training must include live response exercises and semiannual drills.
- Establish an in-house rescue team or arrange for an off-site source that can provide prompt fire, first aid, and medical response. Note: Off-site first-aid responders must be able to reach the worksite within 5 minutes from receiving a report of an injury or illness at your facility.
- Train workers assigned to rescue teams on practices and procedures relevant to their assigned roles, and the proper selection, use, and care of personal protective equipment (PPE).
- Ensure that off-site rescue teams are familiar with the layout of your facility and the hazards they may encounter there.
- Develop an incident management system for the orderly and safe implementation of fire response functions.
Training tips. Make sure your workers can identify the two closest exits to their workstations. Have fire drills during all work shifts so that all your workers know what your fire alarm sounds like.
Components of Your Fire Safety Plan
According to OSHA, your fire safety plan should include:
- Identification of fire hazards
- Procedures for recognizing and reporting unsafe conditions
- Alarm procedures
- Procedures for notifying workers and the fire response organization of a fire emergency
- Evacuation procedures, including:
- Ways to account for workers after evacuation
- Emergency escape procedures
- Procedures for critical team members who must remain on-site during an evacuation
- Means of reporting fires
- Whom to contact for additional information on the plan
- Policies for fire, rescue, and emergency response
Protect Yourself from Liability
Fire safety plans also make sense for controlling potential liability. In addition to needless loss of life or injury, the death of a worker from a fire or emergency-related cause in the workplace can subject companies to federal prosecution if OSHA standards were not met. OSHA inspectors check to see if employers are complying with fire safety standards.
Preventing fire-related deaths in the workplace can be as simple as properly marking fire exit locations, periodically testing fire extinguishers and alarm systems, and developing effective evacuation plans.