Workplace Fire Safety
requirements for workplace fire safety include exits, emergency
escape routes, fire extinguishers, and emergency plans.
September 1991, 25 people died as a result of a fire in the Imperial
Food Products, Inc., plant in Hamlet, North Carolina.
cause of the fire was the ignition of hydraulic oil from a ruptured
line only a few feet from a natural-gas-fired cooker. The cooker
was used to cook chicken pieces for distribution to restaurants.
of 90 employees on the shift, 25 died and an additional 54 were
OSHA violations were uncovered after the fire. The basic OSHA
exit and fire safety violations that contributed to the deaths
and injuries were: [View
tragic Hamlet fire received a lot of publicity. In spite of this
publicity, blocked exits continue to be found in poultry processing
facilities. OSHA cited a plant in Hudson,
Missouri, for blocking fire and emergency exits in July 1997.
marking of exits or non-exits,
travel distances to exits,
emergency action plan or fire prevention plan, and
automatic fire suppression plan.
fire exits and training of employees to prevent fire deaths and
injuries in the workplace.
employers want employees to fight small fires, appropriate fire
extinguishers must be available and employees must be trained
to use them.
employees are to evacuate instead of fighting small fires, an employer
must have a written emergency plan and train employees for evacuation.
During a 1997 survey, OSHA found that many facilities had written
emergency plans. However, workers had not received adequate training
or drills in what to do in an emergency.
The basic OSHA requirements for fire exits are:
fire suppression systems such as automatic sprinkler systems improve
fire safety in the workplace.
If an employer wants employees to fight small fires, the proper
types of fire extinguishers must be available. Extinguishers must
- There must be at least 2 doors or other means of escape for fire emergencies;
they may not be close to each other.
- Fire doors must not be locked or blocked from the inside when employees
are in the building.
- Routes to the fire exits must be free of obstructions and properly
marked with exit signs.
Employees who will use fire extinguishers must be trained:
- Approved for the types of fire hazards in the plant,
- Maintained, and
If employees are to evacuate instead of fighting small fires,
an employer must have a written emergency plan.
- About the hazards of fighting fire,
- How to operate the fire extinguishers, and
- How to alert other employees to the fire emergency.
Emergency action plans:
- Designate evacuation routes and procedures to account for all evacuated
- Assign responsibilities for procedures to shut down critical operations
and perform rescue and medical duties;
- Establish a way to alert employees to the fire emergency; this may be
voice communication, bells, whistles, or horns; and
- Identify persons who can provide more information.
must be trained so they know the evacuation signal and what
to do in an emergency.
fire prevention plan will minimize the number of times an evacuation
Provisions of a fire prevention plan include:
procedures for storage and clean-up of flammable materials
and flammable waste;
for controlling ignition sources such as smoking, welding,
for maintenance and cleaning of heat-producing equipment,
such as burners, ovens, stoves, and fryers; and
of employees in the potential fire hazards and the control
procedures in the fire prevention plan.
Specific OSHA Requirements
Automatic systems must be properly maintained.
an alarm, and
water or other suppression agent where heat and fire are located.
a system is taken out of service during work hours a fire watch
must be substituted.
requirements exist for automatic systems that use chemicals that
present a serious health hazard.
use of automatic systems must be covered by the emergency action
plan and fire prevention plan.
OSHA Requirements for workplace fire safety are contained in 29
CFR 1910 Subparts E and L.
E, Exit routes, emergency action plans, and fire prevention
plans. Contains the following sections: [Overheads]
NOTE: Employers in states with state-run safety and health plans should
check with their state
agency. Their state may enforce standards that, while "as effective
as federal standards," may not be identical to the federal requirements.
L, Fire protection. Contains the following sections: [Overheads]
- General requirements;
- Means of egress, general; and
- Employee emergency plans and fire prevention plan.
application and definitions applicable to this subpart;
- Fire brigades;
and hose systems;
extinguishing systems, general;
extinguishing systems, dry chemical;
extinguishing systems, gaseous agent;
extinguishing systems, water spray and foam;
detection systems; and