Fire Prevention Week: OSHA Emergency Plans

Posted on 10/7/2019 by Roger Marks

This week, October 6–12 is Fire Prevention Week. Sponsored each year by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), Fire Prevention Week is a perfect time for households and workplaces to review and update their plans for getting everyone out safely during a fire.  

The theme of this year's Fire Prevention Week is "Not Every Hero Wears a Cape: Plan and Practice Your Escape!" 

For many industry facilities, including those that generate hazardous waste or manage hazardous materials, effective emergency preparedness takes more than the occasional fire drill. When dozens or hundreds or employees are working in one building, having a concrete plan in place to guide evacuations and employee actions can not only save lives, it ensures that everyone gets out in an orderly and safe fashion.
To this end, OSHA requires certain facilities to maintain two different types of emergency preparedness plans: Emergency Action Plans and Fire Prevention Plans.
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What’s the Difference Between These Plans?

 An Emergency Action Plan makes it easier for employees and employers to react and response to emergencies in an organized way.
Fire Prevention Plan, on the other hand, is put in place to help prevent fires from occurring in the first place, and to prevent small fires from spreading and causing a facility-wide emergency.

Who Needs a Plan and Basic Requirements

Your facility needs these plans if you are subject to any of the following specific OSHA standards:
  • Grain handling (see 29 CFR 1910.272)
  • Hazardous waste operations, i.e. HAZWOPER (see 29 CFR 1910.120)
  • Process Safety Management (PSM) facilities (see 29 CFR 1910.119); and
  • Any workplace where the employer provides portable fire extinguishers (see 29 CFR 1910.157)
EAPs and Fire Prevention Plans must be:
  • In writing
  • Kept in the workplace
  • Available to all employees
 Note: Employers with ten or fewer employeesmay communicate their Emergency Action Plans or Fire Prevention Plans orally.
Workplaces other than those listed above are not explicitly required to have emergency action plans or fire prevention plans. That said, whether a plan is required or not, all employees should know where to go, what to do, and their responsibilities for helping others in the event of an emergency or fire at your workplace.  

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What Goes in the Emergency Action Plan and Fire Prevention Plan?

 OSHA lists specific information that all emergency action plans and fire prevention plans must include at 29 CFR 1910.38 (Emergency Action Plans) and 1910.39 (Fire Prevention Plans).

Emergency action plans must include, at a minimum:
  • Procedures for reporting a fire or other emergency;
  • Procedures for emergency evacuation, including type of evacuation and exit route assignments;
  • Procedures to be followed by employees who remain to operate critical plant operations before they evacuate;
  • Procedures to account for all employees after evacuation;
  • Procedures to be followed by employees performing rescue or medical duties;
  • The name or job title of every employee who may be contacted by employees who need more information about the plan or an explanation of their duties under the plan; and
  • Designation of trained employees who will assist in a safe and orderly evacuation of other employees.
Fire prevention plans must include, at a minimum:
  • A list of all major fire hazards, proper handling and storage procedures for hazardous materials, potential ignition sources and their control, and the type of fire protection equipment necessary to control each major hazard;
  • Procedures to control accumulations of flammable and combustible waste materials;
  • Procedures for regular maintenance of safeguards installed on heat-producing equipment to prevent the accidental ignition of combustible materials;
  • The name or job title of employees responsible for maintaining equipment to prevent or control sources of ignition or fires; and
  • The name or job title of employees responsible for the control of fuel source hazards.
OSHA's fire safety and emergency planning standards were based on 1970 NFPA standards. Compliance with current NFPA standards, instead of the OSHA standard, is also suitable. [29 CFR 1910.35; §1910, Subpart B, Appendix B]

Have You Updated Your Plan Lately?

Fire Prevention Month is a great time to check on any emergency preparedness documents you have at your facility—like an Emergency Action Plan or Fire Prevention Plan—and ensure those documents are up to date. If you’ve added equipment to your facility, changed employee contact information, changed your procedures, or started working with a new material, or made any number of other changes or updates, these changes must be reflected on your plan.

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