safety is important business. According to National Safety
Council figures, losses due to workplace fires in 1991 totaled
$2.1 billion. Of the 4,200 persons who lost their lives due
to fires in 1991, the National Safety Council estimates 327
were workplace deaths. Fires and burns accounted for 3.3 percent
of all occupational fatalities.
is a long and tragic history of workplace fires in this country.
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.
repeated itself several years ago in the fire in Hamlet, North
Carolina, where 25 workers died in a fire in a poultry processing
plant. It appears that here, too, there were problems with
fire exits and extinguishing systems.
OSHA conducts workplace inspections, it checks to see whether
employers are complying with OSHA standards for fire safety.
standards require employers to provide proper exits, fire
fighting equipment, and employee training to prevent fire
deaths and injuries in the workplace.
workplace building must have at least two means of escape
remote from each other to be used in a fire emergency.
doors must not be blocked or locked to prevent emergency
use when employees are within the buildings. Delayed opening
of fire doors is permitted when an approved alarm system
is integrated into the fire door design.
routes from buildings must be clear and free of obstructions
and properly marked with signs designating exits from the
workplace building must have a full complement of the proper
type of fire extinguisher for the fire hazards present,
excepting when employers wish to have employees evacuate
instead of fighting small fires.
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 to the fire emergency.
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.
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.
action plans are required to describe the routes to use
and procedures to be followed by employees. Also procedures
for accounting for all evacuated employees must be part
of the plan. The written plan must be available for employee
needed, special procedures for helping physically impaired
employees must be addressed in the plan; also, the plan
must include procedures for those employees who must remain
behind temporarily to shut down critical plant equipment
before they evacuate.
preferred means of alerting employees to a fire emergency
must be part of the plan and an employee alarm system must
be available throughout the workplace complex and must be
used for emergency alerting for evacuation. The alarm system
may be voice communication or sound signals such as bells,
whistles or horns. Employees must know the evacuation signal.
of all employees in what is to be done in an emergency is
required. Employers must review the plan with newly assigned
employees so they know correct actions in an emergency and
with all employees when the plan is changed.
need to implement a written fire prevention plan to complement
the fire evacuation plan to minimize the frequency of evacuation.
Stopping unwanted fires from occurring is the most efficient
way to handle them. The written plan shall be available
for employee review.
procedures for storage and cleanup of flammable materials
and flammable waste must be included in the plan. Recycling
of flammable waste such as paper is encouraged; however,
handling and packaging procedures must be included in the
for controlling workplace ignition sources such as smoking,
welding and burning must be addressed in the plan. Heat
producing equipment such as burners, heat exchangers, boilers,
ovens, stoves, fryers, etc., must be properly maintained
and kept clean of accumulations of flammable residues; flammables
are not to be stored close to these pieces of equipment.
employees are to be apprised of the potential fire hazards
of their job and the procedures called for in the employer's
fire prevention plan. The plan shall be reviewed with all
new employees when they begin their job and with all employees
when the plan is changed.
designed and installed fixed fire suppression systems enhance
fire safety in the workplace. Automatic sprinkler systems
throughout the workplace are among the most reliable fire
fighting means. The fire sprinkler system detects the fire,
sounds an alarm and puts the water where the fire and heat
fire suppression systems require proper maintenance to keep
them in serviceable condition. When it is necessary to take
a fire suppression system out of service while business
continues, the employer must temporarily substitute a fire
watch of trained employees standing by to respond quickly
to any fire emergency in the normally protected area. The
fire watch must interface with the employers' fire prevention
plan and emergency action plan.
must be posted about areas protected by total flooding fire
suppression systems which use agents that are a serious
health hazard such as carbon dioxide, Halon 1211, etc. Such
automatic systems must be equipped with area predischarge
alarm systems to warn employees of the impending discharge
of the system and allow time to evacuate the area. There
must be an emergency action plan to provide for the safe
evacuation of employees from within the protected area.
Such plans are to be part of the overall evacuation plan
for the workplace facility.
Publication #: OSHA Fact Sheet No. 93-41
This is one of a series of fact sheets highlighting U.S. Department
of Labor programs. It is intended as a general description
only and does not carry the force of legal opinion.
Disclaimer and Reproduction Information: Information in
NASD does not represent NIOSH policy. Information included in
NASD appears by permission of the author and/or copyright holder.