Have you gotten dinged for failure to meet OSHA fire safety requirements recently? What a hassle. There are so many requirements to meet. OSHA or the Occupational Safety and Health Act was created in 1970 to “because of public outcry against rising injury and death rates on the job – the agency has focused its resources where they can have the greatest impact in reducing injuries, illnesses, and deaths in the workplace, (OSHA.gov, 2022). While the requirements can be burdensome, you can live with the knowledge that your business is safe from the financial damage of a fire or worse.
Read along to learn and meet the OSHA fire protection requirements.
Work with your employees to create this plan. It will help them be knowledgeable, accountable, and safer if a fire occurs. The plan can be typed up and stored for future employee trainings. It also looks great to show to the fire marshal during an inspection. Here are some questions you and your employees can explore to create the plan:
- • Where are the easiest exits?
- • Where are the emergency exits?
- • Is there anything blocking the exits or making them difficult to notice?
- • Who is responsible for ensuring all employees/customers have exited?
- • Who is responsible for calling 911?
- • Where is a fire most likely to occur?
- • Where are your fire extinguishers located?
- • Do you know how to use them?
- • Are your emergency exit lights working?
- • Do you know what type of batteries the emergency exit lights need?
- • Who is your licensed fire extinguisher company?
- • When did they last service your fire extinguishers and equipment?
- • How do you know a fire is too large to extinguish?
All the answers should be documented. If you still feel unsafe, you can call your local fire department to request fire extinguisher training for your and your employees. Call it a team building event or just being safe, but it is kind of fun to use a fire extinguisher in a safe environment with professionals. It will increase the likelihood your employees follow the PASS method of extinguishing fires (pull the pin, aim the hose, squeeze the lever, extinguish the base of the fire with a sweeping motion).
Another resource is your locally-licensed, fire extinguisher equipment company. The technicians will be able to educate you and ensure your equipment is properly certified and in the correct location. Try to schedule them on a day your employees are present so they can ask questions too.
Portable Fire Extinguishers
OSHA requires that business owners have sufficient fire extinguishers for the size and hazard of their worksite – regardless of other measures of fire protection. These extinguishers are labeled by class, meaning what types of fires they extinguish. They must be serviced at least every 12 months by a certified fire extinguisher technician and a licensed company for the area of service.
A couple rules of thumb:
- ✓ Have your fire extinguishers readily accessible
- ☐ Do not have them behind large objects, doors, or in difficult to reach places
- ✓ Have your fire extinguishers off the ground
- ✓ Periodically check your extinguishers for tampering and that all parts seem to be in order
- ✓ Look at the labels on your fire extinguishers
- ☐ They should be dated for service
- ☐ If the date is more than one year from the last service you are overdue for more service
- ☐ It is as easy as calling the number and scheduling an inspection
- ✓ Have the right amount and class of extinguishers for your business’ level of hazard
If you are unfamiliar with the laws regarding fire extinguishers, you can research them using the National Fire Protection Association’s manual. NFPA 10 is the publication for portable fire extinguishers. It is a long, technical read. I would recommend calling someone licensed in fire extinguishers so that they can certify your equipment and let you know if you have any deficiencies.
Fire Suppression Systems
This is the easiest and most difficult of the OSHA requirements. It is the easiest if you do not have a kitchen or commercial cooking equipment or severe fire hazards (most businesses). You do not need one! If you have high levels of fire hazard or cooking equipment – you will need to call the professionals for service.
Fire suppression systems in kitchens, boats, or paint dipping stations must be serviced every six months. Kitchens also require a Class K extinguisher. This is a special type of extinguisher. It contains chemicals that will extinguish flammable cooking liquids. Other types of extinguishers are not designed for this purpose. Their chemicals tend to make the fire worse!
Does my business need a fire suppression system?
- • Do you have a kitchen in your business?
- • Do you have commercial cooking appliances in your business?
- • Do you have a food truck?
- • Is your business aboard a ship?
If the answer to any of these questions is yes, your business needs a fire suppression system. These systems are designed as a fail-safe and automatically activate in case of a fire. If you have ever worked in a kitchen or boat engine-room you are probably familiar with them. If not, read the label on yours and call the experts. They will be more than happy to help you.
Hopefully these fire safety tips will help you meet your state or federal OSHA requirements. If you need additional resources, you can use OSHA’s website to help you. Best of luck on passing your next inspection.