Fire safety is as important in the workplace as it is in the home. The presence of flammable materials and the sometimes hectic pace make many workplaces potential hazards unless the proper precautions are taken. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) prescribes several workplace fire safety procedures to minimise the risk.
One of the most important workplace fire safety procedures involves keeping all exits free and accessible, and properly marked. Signs must indicate at least two exits in different parts of the building, and all hallways must be free from clutter. Fire doors may not be locked when workers are present.
OSHA requires every workplace to provide an evacuation plan. This plan must be in written form and available to all employees. It describes possible evacuation routes using two or more exits. The employer must have a system in place for alerting workers to the fire danger, such as an alarm. The plan also needs to include a method for teaching the evacuation methods to new employees and educating them about fire dangers specific to the workplace.
An evacuation plan must also include a procedure for accounting for employees once outside of the building, which means maintaining an accurate roster of who is inside at all times. Finally, the evacuation plan must account for disabled or physically impaired workers who may have special evacuation needs.
Prevention and Suppression
The best way to handle workplace fire safety is to prevent fires from forming in the first place. Besides educating workers of the fire hazards and dangerous materials in a workplace, employers must also submit a fire prevention plan to OSHA. The plan must include items such as housekeeping to prevent a build-up of flammable waste, steps to control the possible sources of ignition (such as open flames or cigarettes) and procedures for the safe storage of any hazardous flammable material.
Every workplace should be equipped with the proper tools for extinguishing small fires. This generally means fire extinguishers and hoses located throughout the building in clearly marked containers. Automated fire suppression systems, like automatic sprinklers, also serve this need.