- Identify dangers associated with fire and other emergencies
- Recall requirements for emergency action and fire prevention plans
- Recognize housekeeping guidelines for fire prevention
- Recall the importance of emergency exits and identify their components
- Recognize actions to take in response to emergency alarms
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Employers are required to provide a safe working environment for employees and that responsibility means having an emergency plan for responding positively to natural disasters such as earthquakes, fires, floods, tornadoes, tsunamis, and hurricanes. Readiness, through understanding of evacuation plans or drilling for regionally specific scenarios, is the key to keeping your workforce out of harm’s way.
Working safely and following proper procedures for emergency preparedness can prevent many emergency situations. However, some emergencies are out of your control.
The most common workplace emergency is fire. The best way to prevent injuries and deaths from fires is to prevent fires in the first place.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), more than 75,000 workplace fires and related explosions occur each year.
All companies should create a basic fire prevention plan for fire safety, which includes a list of the major workplace fire hazards and proper handling and storage procedures for those materials. The plan should also cover potential ignition sources, such as welding and smoking and related control procedures, as well as discuss the type of fire protection equipment or systems which can control a fire. The fire prevention plan must include the names and/or regular job titles of those personnel responsible for maintenance of fire systems and those personnel responsible for control of fuel source hazards.
Dangers of fire include heat, smoke, and toxic gases which all present some very nasty consequences for the personal welfare and life safety of individuals exposed to fire.
Fire safety can include engineered controls, like fire sprinklers, fire alarms, and smoke detectors are mandatory for many modern structures and likely exist where you work.
Fire Prevention Plan
This fire safety tip is directed toward employers. Not all businesses are required to have a fire safety plan in place, but OSHA advises employers to be proactive by teaching workers about fire hazards and showing them what to do in a fire emergency.
OSHA states that if your business is required to have a fire emergency action plan in place, you must develop a plan that:
- Describes the routes for workers to use and procedures to follow
- Accounts for all evacuated employees
- Remains available for employee review
- Includes procedures for evacuating disabled employees
- Addresses evacuation of employees who stay behind to shut down critical plant equipment
- Includes preferred means of alerting employees to a fire emergency
- Provides for an employee alarm system throughout the workplace
- Requires an alarm system that includes voice communication or sound signals such as bells, whistles, or horns.
- Makes the evacuation signal known to employees
- Ensures emergency training (Which is what this course is about)
- Requires employer review of the plan with new employees and with all employees whenever the plan is changed
Emergency Exits and Routes
In the case of a fire emergency, you want to get everyone out of the facility as quickly as possible. Emergency exits and routes are crucial because they provide a clear path to safety. Here are the qualities of effective emergency exits and routes, as specified by OSHA:
- Must be a permanent part of the building
- Must be provided with a protected way of travel out of the building or out of the area
- May contain way of access of passageways, stairs, aisles and stairwells, ramps, or a series exit doors
- May have ways of access that lead from one area or floor to another or from one building to another
- Must be clear of obstructions
- Must be kept free of explosive or highly flammable furnishings and other decorations
- Must be wide enough to accommodate the number of people trying to get our
- Must be strong enough to support their weight
- Must be properly lighted and marked with EXIT signs
Alarm systems are significant because they alert all employees of a fire emergency, which is the first step in getting to safety. An alarm system may come in the form of a smoke detector, a manual pull box or even a vocal system in which employees alert others by yelling “fire” or some other specified word. If your business is using a smoke detector system the batteries should be changed once a year. When it comes to alarm systems, OSHA recommends knowing:
- The locations of the manual pull boxes or other alarm systems
- How to operate the alarm system
- When the alarm system is to be used
- What the alarm sounds like
- What action to take when the alarm is sounded
It’s great to know what to do in a fire emergency, but it’s even better to prevent the fire from happening in the first place. Electrical fires claim the lives of 280 Americans each year and injure 1,000 more. The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) provides the following precautions to help minimize the risk of a fire:
- Routinely check your electrical appliances and wiring. Replace all worn, old or damaged appliance cords immediately.
- If an appliance has a three-prong plug, use it only in a three-slot outlet. Never force it to fit into a two-slot outlet or extension cord.
- Keep clothes, curtains, and other items that can catch fire at least three feet from all portable electric space heaters.
- Avoid putting cords where they can be damaged or pinched by furniture, under rugs and carpets, or across doorways.
Let’s not forget fire extinguishers as a key component for fire safety. Fire extinguishers put out fire by taking away one or more elements of fire.
The Red Cross says that over 200 million people are affected by natural disasters each year.
There are two things you can predict but cannot control: the weather and natural disasters. You can’t stop either, but you can take measures to mitigate the likely consequences these emergencies. By being prepared for emergencies and knowing how to respond appropriately, risk can be minimized.
Generally, the best way to be protected from death or injury in a fire or other emergency, is to get out of the building quickly by using an emergency exit route. An emergency exit route must be a permanent part of the building or designated area that provides a protected way out of the building or out of the area. It may contain passageways, stairs and stairwells, ramps, or a series of exit doors. It may lead from one area or floor to another or from one building to another.
An earthquake is one such natural disaster that you have zero control over. You can minimize your risk by knowing how to respond. When an earthquake hits, you should immediately drop, cover, and hold. Drop down on the floor. Take cover under a sturdy desk, table, or other furniture. If that is not possible, seek cover by leaning or kneeling against an interior wall and cover your head and neck with your arms. Avoid danger spots such as places near windows, hanging objects, mirrors, or tall furniture, like bookcases. If you take cover under a sturdy piece of furniture, hold on tight, and be prepared to move with it. Hold the position until the ground stops shaking and it is safe to move.
While an earthquake will usually strike with little or no warning, hurricanes usually come with advance warnings. When a hurricane watch is issued, begin preparations by bringing anything inside that could be picked up by the wind. Prepare to cover all windows either with shutters or precut plywood. Your company’s emergency action plan will detail any additional specific precautions that need to be taken at your workplace. When a warning is issued, listen to the advice of local officials and leave if they tell you to do so. If you are not advised to evacuate, stay indoors, away from windows. Return to your home or workplace only when local officials tell you it is safe to do so.
Tornadoes are another dangerous weather-related emergency. Tornadoes are seasonal occurrences, intensifying in frequency at certain times of the year depending on the region of influence. When a watch is issued, remain alert for the approaching storm, remind family or co-workers about the safest places within your home or workplace, and listen to the radio or watch television for further details.
Now, when a tornado warning is issued, a tornado has been sighted or indicated by radar. If a tornado warning is issued, go to the basement of the building or to an inside hallway at the lowest level of your home or workplace. Stay away from windows. Avoid places with wide-span roofs such as auditoriums and cafeterias. Get under a piece of sturdy furniture such a workbench or heavy table. Use your arms to protect your head and neck.
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