In 2011, 143 people in the United States died from fires or explosions at their places of work. More than 5,000 were injured and the related cost to American businesses exceeded $2 billion.

That’s 143 lives and 5,000 injuries too many.

Follow these guidelines for a recent update on OSHA Standard #1910 Subpart E, which addresses fire prevention plans. They relate to emergency evacuation preparations and procedures.

Evacuation Plan Elements

Employers must be prepared to evacuate workers in the event of a fire or an emergency such as a toxic chemical release or weather-related occurrence.

  • Develop a detailed list of procedures for workers selected to stay behind. These employees are responsible for essential plant operations until the time when their evacuation becomes absolutely necessary. They may monitor power and water supplies which cannot be shut down for every emergency alarm or be responsible for processes that must be shut down in stages.
  • Clearly display escape route plans. These floor diagrams or workplace maps should be color coded to assist employees in finding their specific route assignments.
  • Establish and explain rescue and first aid duties. All employees should know what actions to take in these situations.

Evacuation Options

Every member of your workforce should know what type of evacuation is necessary and what their role is in carrying it out. Options may include:

  • Total, immediate evacuation.
  • Partial evacuation involving only non-essential employees.
  • Evacuation of workers only in affected areas.

Safe or refuge areas must be designated and identified in your evacuation plan.

  • If your facility is divided by walls into fire zones, refuge areas may be within the same building but in a different zone.
  • Exterior safe areas may include parking lots, open fields or streets located away from the emergency. This ensures safety and avoids hampering rescue and firefighting operations.

Action Plan Training

An adequate number of designated employees must be available at all times to serve as evacuation wardens, providing guidance and instruction at the time of an emergency. The generally-accepted ratio is one warden to every 20 workers.

  • Wardens must be trained in complete workplace layout and various alternate escape routes. They also must be aware of any handicapped employees who may need special assistance. They will be called upon to account for every team member before an evacuation is deemed complete.

In buildings that house more than one company, employers are encouraged to coordinate their plans and training with one another. Building-wide or standardized plans must be visible in spots where they can be reviewed by all occupants.

Fire Prevention Housekeeping

OSHA reminds employers to safely control the accumulation of flammable and combustible materials throughout their facility.

  • Be aware of the hazardous properties of all materials. For instance, oil-soaked rags must be treated differently than regular or corrugated paper. However, large areas of accumulated paper materials also can pose a hazard.

Equipment Maintenance

Equipment that controls heat sources or detects fuel leaks must be properly maintained to prevent it from becoming a fire hazard.

  • Make sure all such devices are inspected, tested and operable. A few examples are temperature limit switches such as those on deep fryers and flame failure and flashback arresters on furnaces.

The HR and workforce development experts at Premium Staffing can provide additional resources to keep you up to date on OSHA and related guidelines. Contact us or read our related posts to learn more.

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