Recently a terrible fire occurred in a garment factory in Bangladesh that resulted in the deaths of 112 people. There was only one fire exit in the building, and it was locked, preventing the workers who were able to reach it from escaping. A similar tragic fire occurred in New York City in 1911 at the now infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. That terrible fire resulted in the deaths of 146 workers. As a response, laws were developed in the United States for increased fire safety efforts. The purpose was to protect workers from the type of situation that led to such a tragedy.
OSHA now enforces the standards developed to support fire safety in the workplace. With proper planning and training, fires can be prevented. Damages can be minimized if a fire should occur. Following certain procedures can save lives. Employers have a responsibility to train their employees about fire safety. Workers must know what to do in the case of a fire emergency. Certain types of workplaces special chemicals are kept are required by law to develop an emergency action plan to be followed in case of fire.The chemicals Ethylene Oxide, Methylenedianiline, and 1, 3 Butadiene are especially targeted.
One of the most important things an employer can do to protect workers is develop fire safety standards. If firefighting equipment is provided, workers should be trained to use the equipment properly. Employees should also be trained in how to evacuate the area if fire occurs. employees should be aware of all fire exits. Workplaces are required to have enough fire exits to assure prompt evacuation. The type of building and the type of industry are factors in effective fire safety. That floor plan must be considered in creating the fire exits. The exits must never be blocked or obstructed. OSHA standard 29 CFR Part 1910.36 provides the details concerning fire exits. Employers are not required to provide fire extinguishers. If they do, proper OSHA fire safety regulations dictate that workers be trained in proper use of them.
Workplaces required by OSHA to develop emergency action plans include those where any of the following are found:
• Ethylene Oxide
• 1, 3 Butadiene
• Process Safety Management of Highly Hazardous Chemicals
• Fixed Extinguishing Systems
• Fire Detection Systems
• Grain Handling
OSHA fire safety standards list specific elements that must be included in an emergency action plan. There are also specific requirements regarding fixed extinguishing systems. These systems are highly effective. They detect fires, sound an alarm, and use water or chemicals to extinguish them. Employers using fixed extinguishing systems must provide for a fire watch of trained employees. They must be available if the system is out of service. Some chemical systems can cause health hazards. In this case, employees should be alerted to the danger.
Not all employers are required by OSHA to have a fire prevention plan. Guidelines for that plan are useful to reduce fire hazards. Key fundamentals start with proper handling and storage of flammable materials. Isolating possible ignition sources such as smoking or welding are also key. Employers should ensure proper maintenance of heat producing equipment. Ovens, burners, or boilers are targets for this prevention. Making sure that employees are well informed is the cornerstone of prevention. Knowing how to deal with potential fire hazards is an important step in fire safety in the workplace.