Employees have a right to feel safe and secure in the workplace. Employers should always keep the welfare of their employees in mind when creating a work environment. In order to uphold workplace safety, the government created the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA). Specific regulations exist for fire safety, as well as other threats.
Emergency Action Plans
Workplace fire safety begins with proper planning. Not all workplaces are required to have emergency action plans, but many are. All employees should receive training in fire safety and what to do to prevent and escape a fire. Employees may be required to review the emergency action plan upon employment, and should review it any time changes are made. The plan may also include instructions for special situations, like ensuring the evacuation of all handicapped persons and people who stay behind to shut off critical equipment. There also may be a plan in place to account for each employee in case of evacuation. OSHA requires most employers to make emergency action plans readily available for employees to review.
OSHA also requires some employers to have fire prevention plans. This helps reduce the need for frequent emergency evacuations, which cost companies time and money. As with the emergency action plans, a fire prevention plan should be easily available to all employees. All employees are usually required to review the plan any time it changes. A fire prevention plan should address issues such as how to store any combustible products like cleaners and other materials, a plan for a quick and thorough cleanup of any flammable chemical spills and how to handle flammable waste. It also may include maintenance and cleaning procedures for any equipment that produces heat, in order to avoid malfunction.
Some workplaces are required to or choose to install fixed extinguishing systems. OSHA considers these fire-detecting sprinkler systems be one of the most effective ways of fighting a fire. They detect fire immediately and extinguish it before the fire can spread. Waiting for the fire brigade to respond could waste valuable minutes. If the workplace includes this type of system, employers are required to include the system in their action plan. They must also train a select group of employees on how to act in case the system malfunctions. Employers may also supply portable fire extinguishers, as long as they properly train employees on how to use them and include this information in the emergency action plan.
OSHA requires all workplaces to have adequate exits and unobstructed escape routes in case of fire. The number of exits required for all employees to exit safely depends on several factors, including whether the facility uses substances that are at a high risk for combustion, the layout of the building and the type of construction materials used. Fire exit signs must also be posted.