What Should Employers do to Protect Workers from Fire Hazards?
Employers should train workers about fire hazards in the workplace and about what to do in a fire emergency. If you want your workers to evacuate, you should train them on how to escape. If you expect your workers to use firefighting equipment, you should give them appropriate equipment and train them to use the equipment safely. (See Title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations Part 1910 Subparts E and L; and Part 1926 Subparts C and F.)
What Does OSHA Require for Emergency Fire Exits?
Every workplace must have enough exits suitably located to enable everyone to get out of the facility quickly. Considerations include the type of structure, the number of persons exposed, the fire protection available, the type of industry involved, and the height and type of construction of the building or structure. In addition, fire doors must not be blocked or locked when employees are inside. Delayed opening of fire doors, however, is permitted when an approved alarm system is integrated into the fire door design. Exit routes from buildings must be free of obstructions and properly marked with exit signs. See 29 CFR Part 1910.36 for details about all requirements.
Do Employers Have to Provide Portable Fire Extinguishers?
No. But if you do, you must establish an educational program to familiarize your workers with the general principles of fire extinguisher use. If you expect your workers to use portable fire extinguishers, you must provide hands-on training in using this equipment. For details, see 29 CFR Part 1910 Subpart L.
Must employers develop emergency action plans?
- Not every employer is required to have an emergency action plan. OSHA standards that require such plans include the following
- Process Safety Management of Highly Hazardous Chemicals, 1910.119
- Fixed Extinguishing Systems, General, 1910.160
- Fire Detection Systems, 1910.164
- Grain Handling, 1910.272
- Ethylene Oxide, 1910.1047
- Methylenedianiline, 1910.1050
- 1,3 Butadiene, 1910.1051
When required, employers must develop emergency action plans that:
- Describe the routes for workers to use and procedures to follow.
- Account for all evacuated employees.
- Remain available for employee review.
- Include procedures for evacuating disabled employees.
- Address evacuation of employees who stay behind to shut down critical plant equipment.
- Include preferred means of alerting employees to a fire emergency.
- Provide for an employee alarm system throughout the workplace.
- Require an alarm system that includes voice communication or sound signals such as bells, whistles, or horns.
- Make the evacuation signal known to employees.
- Ensure emergency training.
- Require employer review of the plan with new employees and with all employees whenever the plan is changed
Must employers have a fire prevention plan?
- OSHA standards that require fire prevention plans include the following:
- Ethylene Oxide, 1910.1047
- Methylenedianiline, 1910.1050
- 1,3 Butadiene, 1910.1051
Employers covered by these standards must implement plans to minimize the frequency of evacuations. All fire prevention plans must:
- Be available for employee review.
- Include housekeeping procedures for storage and cleanup of flammable materials and flammable waste.
- Address handling and packaging of flammable waste. (Recycling of flammable waste such as paper is encouraged.)
- Cover procedures for controlling workplace ignition sources such as smoking, welding, and burning.
- Provide for proper cleaning and maintenance of heat producing equipment such as burners, heat exchangers, boilers, ovens, stoves, and fryers and require storage of flammables away from this equipment.
- Inform workers of the potential fire hazardsof their jobs and plan procedures.
- Require plan review with all new employees and with all employees whenever the plan is changed.
What are the rules for fixed extinguishing systems?
- Fixed extinguishing systems throughout the workplace are among the most reliable fire fighting tools. These systems detect fires, sound an alarm, and send water to the fire and heat. To meet OSHA standards employers who have these systems must:
- Substitute (temporarily) a fire watch of trained employees to respond to fire emergencies when a fire suppression system is out of service.
- Ensure that the watch is included in the fire prevention plan and the emergency action plan.
- Post signs for systems that use agents (e.g., carbon dioxide, Halon 1211, etc.) posing a serious health hazard.
How can you get more information on safety and health?
- To order OSHA publications online at www.osha.gov, go to Publications and follow the instructions for ordering.
- To file a complaint by phone, report an emergency, or get OSHA advice, assistance, or products, contact your nearest OSHA office under the U.S. Department of Labor listing in your phone book, or call toll-free at (800) 321-OSHA (6742). The teletypewriter (TTY) number is (877) 889-5627.
- To file a complaint online or obtain more information on OSHA federal and state programs, visit OSHA’s website.
This is one in a series of informational fact sheets highlighting OSHA programs, policies, or standards. It does not impose any new compliance requirements. For a comprehensive list of compliance requirements of OSHA standards or regulations, refer to Title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations. This information will be made available to sensory-impaired individuals upon request. The voice phone is (202) 693–1999. See also OSHA’s website at www.osha.gov.
Be Prepared for a High-Rise Fire Emergency
- Never lock fire exits or doorways, halls or stairways. Fire doors provide a way out during the fire and slow the spread of fire and smoke. Never prop stairway or other fire doors open.
- Learn your building evacuation plan. Make sure everyone knows what to do if the fire alarm sounds. Plan and practice your escape plan together.
- Be sure your building manager posts evacuation plans in high traffic areas, such as lobbies.
- Learn the sound of your building’s fire alarm and post emergency numbers near all telephones.
- Know who is responsible for maintaining the fire safety systems. Make sure nothing blocks these devices and promptly report any sign of damage or malfunction to the building management.
Do Not Panic in the Event of a High-Rise Fire Emergency
- Do not assume anyone else has already called the fire department.
- Immediately call your local emergency number. Early notification of the fire department is important. The dispatcher will ask questions regarding the emergency. Stay calm and give the dispatcher the information they request.
If the Door is Warm to the Touch
- Before you try to leave your apartment or office, feel the door with the back of your hand. If the door feels warm to the touch, do not attempt to open it. Stay in your apartment or office.
- Stuff the cracks around the door with towels, rags, bedding or tape and cover vents to keep smoke out.
- If there is a phone in the room where you are trapped, call the fire department again to tell them exactly where you are located. Do this even if you can see fire apparatus on the street below.
- Wait at a window and signal for help with a flashlight or by waving a sheet.
- If possible, open the window at the top and bottom, but do not break it, you may need to close the window if smoke rushes in.
- Be patient. Rescuing all the occupants of a high-rise building can take several hours.
If the Door is Not Warm to the Touch
- If you do attempt to open the door, brace your body against the door while staying low to the floor and slowly open it a crack. What you are doing is checking for the presence of smoke or fire in the hallway.
- If there is no smoke in the hallway or stairwells, follow your building’s evacuation plan.
- If you don’t hear the building’s fire alarm, pull the nearest fire alarm “pull station” while exiting the floor.
- If you encounter smoke or flames on your way out, immediately return to your apartment or office.
After a High-Rise Fire Emergency
- Once you are out of the building, STAY OUT! Do not go back inside for any reason.
- Tell the fire department if you know of anyone trapped in the building.
- Only enter when the fire department tells you it is safe to do so.
Maintain and Install Working Smoke Alarms
- No matter where you live, always install smoke alarms on every level of your home and inside and outside of sleeping areas. Test them monthly and change the batteries at least once a year. Remember, fire safety is your personal responsibility…Fire Stops With You!