OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA's website at http://www.osha.gov.


April 17, 2007

Mr. Charles Mucciaccio, Jr.
446 Main Street
Millis, MA 02054

Dear Mr. Mucciaccio:

Thank you for your letter of February 25, 2007, to Ms. Ruth McCully of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Your letter was forwarded to our office for a response. Your letter presents your concerns about the fire evacuation procedures contained in the Post Office's emergency action plan — specifically with respect to a scenario in which clerks discover an unknown powder/biohazard. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation only of the requirements discussed and may not be applicable to any situation not delineated within your original correspondences.

Several OSHA standards (e.g., Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response — 29 CFR 1910.120, Ethylene Oxide — 29 CFR 1910.1047) require the employer to develop an emergency action plan that contains the elements set forth in 29 CFR 1910.38, Emergency Action Plans. Even if an employer is not specifically required by OSHA to establish a 1910.38-compliant emergency action plan, doing so is a good way to protect workers during an emergency.

Under 1910.38, a written emergency action plan must contain the following elements:

  1. Procedures for reporting a fire or other emergency;
  2. Procedures for emergency evacuation, including type of evacuation and exit route assignments;
  3. Procedures to be followed by employees who remain to operate critical plant operations before they evacuate;
  4. Procedures to account for all employees after evacuation;
  5. Procedures to be followed by employees performing rescue or medical duties; and
  6. 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.

 

 

In addition, 1910.38 requires the employer to have and maintain a distinctive alarm system to notify employees of an emergency and to designate and train employees to assist in a safe and orderly evacuation of other employees. Under 1910.38, the employer must also ensure that the emergency action plan is available to employees for review and must review the plan with each employee covered by the plan (1) when the plan is developed or the employee is first assigned to a job; (2) when the employee's responsibilities under the plan change; and (3) when the plan changes.

Please note that the specific evacuation procedures that are appropriate for a given workplace depend upon factors such as the type of incidents (e.g., fire, weather-related, damaged packages) that workers are likely to encounter and the type of building being evacuated. As part of the plan, an employer may choose to require a total evacuation of the building or section of a building, or possibly to shelter-in-place. It is important to hold practice evacuation or shelter-in-place drills as often as necessary to keep employees prepared. An employer may also provide additional safety and health information for the protection of employees based on their assessment of the types of incidents anticipated in the workplace.

We have included a copy of the OSHA publication How to Plan for Workplace Emergencies and Evacuations as further guidance on developing an emergency action plan. In addition, we recommend that you visit OSHA's Emergency Evacuation eTool web page at the following link http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/evacuation/index.html. The web page offers employers and employees valuable information which can assist in the preparation of a workplace for any type of emergency.

We hope you find this information helpful. OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards, and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA's website at http://www.osha.gov. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact the Office of General Health Enforcement at (202) 693-2190.

Sincerely,



Richard E. Fairfax, Director
Directorate of Enforcement Programs