Just like a Job Hazard Assessment (JHA) is a way to develop every day employee safe work practices, an Emergency Action Plan (EAP) is planning for possible workplace emergencies. And like a JHA, the EAP has a series of cornerstones – development, authority, training, and maintenance – to build upon and is specific to the workplace while having some recognizable commonalities (e.g. evacuation plan, shelter in place, and fire prevention).
Don’t assume that all workers will make the safe choice in the face of an emergency.
A trash fire may be something an employee may try to put out on his own but without the training to know when its past the incipient stage where it can easily be put out they can put themselves and others in danger by delaying warning everyone else.
That’s why it’s important to take the time to develop a plan that writes out what employees should do in each possible emergency. Use the workers experience to get a first-hand opinion of what the hazards and worst case scenarios are and possible responses.
Part of every EAP is identifying everybody’s responsibility including the person whose job it is to execute an EAP and evacuation procedures. The coordinator’s authority includes deciding there is an emergency, activating and overseeing emergencies procedures and contacting other emergency services such as the police or fire department.
Ensuring employees are trained in all elements of the EAP that affect them is another important component. They may need to know: their responsibilities, workplace hazards, possible notifications, response procedures such as evacuating or sheltering, location of available emergency equipment, and anything they need to shut down.
In order to be considered current any assessment or plan has to be maintained. Maintenance can mean: regular reviews; updates that incorporate new workplace conditions, equipment, or materials; information to outside emergency responders, evacuation drills, and ongoing training for new and current employees.
No matter how unique or safe the workplace is, it is going to include common elements such as: an evacuation procedure, shelter in place procedure, and a fire prevention plan. If an office has a workplace violence situation where a disgruntled current or former employee go to work threatening violence it may be necessary to evacuate the building getting the employees to a safer location while alerting the police. There are also situations where that same office, located in an industrial park where a rail line travels nearby, may want to have an interior room where all employees will have to report to and shelter-in-place because a car has derailed nearby and is leaking hazardous material.
Fire Prevention Plan
Every EAP needs a fire prevention plan that at least meets the OSHA requirements detailed in 29 CFR 1910.39. Think of a fire prevention plan as a compact EAP with its own four components: required lists, maintenance and control procedures, assigned responsibilities, and providing training. The required lists include identifying: major fire hazards, hazardous material handling and storage procedures, ignition sources and how to control them, and the needed fire protection equipment provided for the hazards. Control procedures include housekeeping to prevent the accumulation of flammable or combustible materials. Elements that need to be regularly maintained are the safeguards on heat producing equipment so that combustible materials don’t ignite. And just like the larger EAP, every employee needs to know their responsibilities and who has the authority to assign them. Fire prevention plan specific responsibilities include maintaining equipment to prevent ignition, and who controls the fuel sources. Fire prevention training must have the potential fire hazards and how the worker will protect themselves.
There are ways to get even more specific guidance on creating an EAP than this survey. For example, OSHA provides instruction and checklists to help businesses get started, and OSHA state plans may provide additional state specific guidance and other consensus standard establishing organizations that even OSHA defers to on specific criteria like the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) can be referenced.
Other Safety School articles that examine the more academic concepts of occupational safety:
October 6 -12 is national Fire Prevention week. This is a good time to check the fire safety of your workplace and home.
The leading cause of both residential and nonresidential fires is cooking. In 2011 there were over 360,000 residential fires resulting in over 2,000 deaths, 10,000 injuries, and $6.6 billion dollars in losses. It’s essential that your workplace and home have the correct fire extinguishers and smoke/fire detectors, and now is the time to check them.
Fire extinguishers are required in the workplace and commercial buildings, and must be inspected at least annually. Away from work, you should have at least one fire extinguisher. It’s a good idea to have one in your vehicle, one in your kitchen, and one in the garage or other part of the house.
The most useful type of extinguisher to have is a type ABC. These are good for wood and paper fires (class A), grease and gasoline fires (class B), and electrical fires (class C). If you prefer you could consider a type K extinguisher for the kitchen. These are for grease and oil fires and may work better than class B extinguishers on high temperature fires. Because some of the chemicals in class K extinguishers can be conductive, they shouldn’t be used if there is live electricity present.
Most residential extinguishers are rechargeable while others are disposable. You should check your extinguishers at least twice a year by inspecting the gauge to make sure it’s in the good (usually green) range, and recharge or replace if it’s out of its operating range. Contact your local waste management operating to see if there are any restrictions regarding extinguisher disposal.
Extinguishers are important for putting out small fires, but at least as important is having working smoke alarms/detectors. These can allow you to deal with a fire before it becomes unmanageable.
Household smoke detectors should be located on each level of your home and located in hallways or stairways near sleeping areas. Depending on the size and floor plan of your home, it’s also a good idea to have one located in or near the kitchen. Place them on the ceiling at least six inches from the wall.
Most home smoke detectors are battery operated. Test your detectors monthly by pressing the test button and replace the batteries every six months. An easy way to remember this is to do when time changes (March and November).
In addition to testing and maintaining your smoke detectors regularly, it’s important to remember that they should be replaced at least every 10 years. Detectors are electronic devices and the average life span for electronics is seven to ten years.
There are two basic types of smoke detectors, ionizing and photoelectric. Photoelectric devices use an optical sensor to “see” particles of smoke, while ionizing units use a small amount of radioactive material to create a small circuit inside the detector. Smoke interrupts this circuit and activates the alarm. Both detector types are effective, but ionization units detect blazing fires more quickly while photoelectric models sense smoldering blazes more rapidly.
Because ionizing units contain small amounts of radioactive material and must be disposed of properly. Contact your local fire department for disposal information.
With the holidays approaching, there will be an increase in cooking, the use of candles, and electrical devices (Christmas light and extension cords). Now is the time to make sure you’re fire safe.
Fire safety at work is everyone’s business. Each year in the United States, there are between 70,000 and 80,000 impactful workplace fires. Of these, over 5,000 result in injury and 200 end in death. Fortunately, most workplace fires can be prevented — only 15 percent of them are a result of circumstances outside of human control.
The key is training, knowledge, and preventative measures. It’s important that businesses establish and implement fire safety programs and that all employees are involved. Fire safety training kits should cover all vital elements such as hazard recognition, prevention, and response. Use these fire safety basics to get you started.
Hazard Recognition and Prevention
To eliminate fire hazards, you have to know what to look for. Take the time to perform a workplace hazard assessment where you can search for and document known hazards. Once hazards have been identified, you’ll then be able to either control them if they are unavoidable or eliminate them altogether. Consider the following:
Always practice good housekeeping. Keep work areas free of clutter and combustible waste.
Make sure any heat-producing equipment (including office equipment like copiers or coffee makers) are kept away from materials that could burn.
39 percent of workplace fires are electrical. Ensure electrical cords are in good condition. Remove equipment from service if wires are found exposed or damaged until they have been repaired or replaced.
Check that power outlets are not overloaded and that outlets and extension cords are capable of handling the voltage of connected equipment.
Be on the lookout for equipment that overheats or gives off a burning odor.
When plugging equipment into an outlet, the plug should correspond with the outlet; that is to say, do not plug a two-prong plug into a three-slot outlet.
Store flammable work materials and chemicals in a safe location away from any ignition sources.
Make sure there are unobstructed emergency exits and escape routes. Routes and evacuation instructions should be posted in locations visible to employees on every floor.
Inspect fire response equipment regularly, including smoke detectors, fire alarms, and fire extinguishers. Items not in working order need to be replaced right away.
Fire extinguishers must be current on their inspections. Tags will indicate the most recent inspection.
Communicate to all employees the hazards of smoking on site. Designate smoking areas outside and away from building entrances.
Part of a preventative strategy includes written and practiced evacuation procedures. Your business should conduct regular fire drills where alarm recognition, safe evacuation, designated meeting location, and roll calls are performed. Use drills as an opportunity to identify flaws in your program and make any necessary changes.
If you see a fire break out, immediately sound the nearest alarm to alert other employees in the building and then determine your next step.
If the fire is small and controllable and you are trained in the use of a fire extinguisher, you may attempt to extinguish the fire. Be sure to leave yourself a clear escape route and know how to recognize when the fire grows out of your control. Instruct a nearby employee to dial 911 if your alarm system is not equipped to automatically communicate with local emergency responders.
If it’s clear the fire cannot be controlled by a fire extinguisher, evacuate immediately. Do not wait around or attempt to manage the fire on your own. Follow established evacuation procedures and assist fellow employees along the way.
Here are a few additional tips to elevate safety during fire response:
Choose the correct fire extinguisher for the job. Certain fire extinguishers are designed to extinguish particular types of fires. For example, an extinguisher designed to put out grease fires is not effective against fires caused by ordinary combustibles such as paper and cardboard.
While nothing is an equal substitute for training on and familiarization with the use of fire extinguishers, the basics can be remembered with one simple acronym: PASS.
P: Pull the pin
A: Aim the nozzle at the base of the fire where the source is, not at the flames themselves
S: Squeeze the handle
S: Sweep the nozzle back and forth from left to right until the fire has been extinguished
When evacuating the building, close doors behind you. This will help limit the spread of fire and smoke throughout the building.
Never use an elevator during a fire. This is important for three reasons:
Depending on the severity of the fire, electrical damage may shut elevators down mid-transit
Elevator shafts may fill up with smoke
Emergency responders and firefighters may need access to the elevators to address fires on upper levels.
It’s important all employees are trained in basic first aid skills. After evacuation, attend to any employees who may have been injured either by the flames or smoke inhalation while you wait for emergency responders.
Remember that fires are nearly always avoidable. Knowledge, training, and a solid fire safety meeting topics can save you and your company from injuries, death, and property damage.
One of the effective ways to eliminate and control fire hazards is to have a fire and safety watch. This is a requirement whenever welding and other operations posing fire hazards are done in the workplace.
Here are the basic responsibilities of a fire and safety watch:
Watch out for fire hazards in the workplace while work is performed by other employees.
Maintain the conditions and requirements stated on the safety permit.
Keep flammable materials from ignition sources.
In the event of fire, extinguish it immediately or turn a fire alarm on.
Call 911 or the emergency alarm number.
Stop operations if you find any hazardous condition.
Any condition in the workplace, whether usual or unexpected, determines your basic duties as a fire or safety watch.Some of them are the following:
Make sure you and other employees are aware of the exact location of fire fighting equipment in the immediate area.
Maintain constant means of communication.
As much as possible, keep visual and voice contact with other employees.
Before and during each shift, inspect the entire work area and look for potential release of flammable vapors or liquids.
Be prepared to operate fire extinguishers, hydrants, fixed monitors, and hose carts anytime.
Never leave the job site while the work is being done.If you have to leave, stop the job and notify workers that you are “standing-by-for”.
When all operations are done, do not leave the worksite unless you’re sure that there are no hot sparks, burning embers and other fire hazards.Return all fire fighting equipment to their original location.