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Fire Safety In the Workplace

Posted by Emilcott Associates

Oct 6, 2015 3:35:00 PM


While October is generally recognized as Fire Prevention Month, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and most fire departments designate the second week of October as Fire Prevention Week.  This has roots dating date back to the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 that killed more than 250 people and left more than 100,000 homeless. The purpose of this focused effort is simple—fire safety is serious business.  It deserves a month long effort to underscore the importance of fire safety in the home, in schools and at work.  

Fire safety at work is covered by the NFPA and OSHA (The Occupational Safety and Health Administration).  According to OSHA, workplace fires and explosions kill, on average, 200 workers each year and injure more than 5,000. They cost businesses more than $2.3 billion in property damage. Prevention is the only way to decrease these statistics.

There is a long and tragic history of workplace fires in America.  One of the most notable was the fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York City in 1911 in which nearly 150 women and young girls died because of locked fire exits and inadequate fire extinguishing systems. In spite of over 100 years of technology to improve fire resistance in building materials and advancements in fire suppression systems, history was repeated recently when a fire in a poultry processing plant in Hamlet, North Carolina killed 25 workers. It appears that here, too, there were problems with fire exits and extinguishing systems.

OSHA Standards require employers to provide proper exits, firefighting equipment, emergency plans, and employee training to prevent fire deaths and injuries in the workplace.

Building Fire Exits

  • Each workplace building must have at least two means of escape that are remote from each other
  • Exit routes from buildings, including fire doors, must be free of obstructions and properly marked with signs designating exits from the building and the locking arrangement on exit doors must be arranged to open readily in the direction of exit travel so that there is no interference with the orderly movement of people in the event of a fire or other emergency
  • Delayed-egress locks, used for building security and as such prevent a door from being opened for 15 to 30 seconds, are only permitted in buildings protected throughout by an approved automatic fire sprinkler or fire detection system integrated into the fire door design.

Portable Fire Extinguishers

  • Each workplace building must have a full complement of the proper type(s) of fire extinguisher for the fire hazards present. This can change throughout the building
  • Employees expected or anticipated to use fire extinguishers must be instructed on the hazards of fighting fire, how to properly operate the fire extinguishers available, and what procedures to follow in alerting others of the fire emergency.
  • Only approved fire extinguishers are permitted to be used in workplaces, and they must be kept in good operating condition. Proper maintenance and inspection of this equipment is required of each employer.
  • In facilities where the employer wishes to evacuate employees instead of having them fight small fires, there must be written emergency plans and employee training for proper evacuation

Emilcott has helped our clients evaluate fire and life safety in their facilities for nearly 30 years. We train employees in fire safety and prevention as well as fire extinguisher usage.

Written by Eric Fox & Barbara Alves. 


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