Fire Safety in the Workplace

Who is Responsible for Fire Safety in the Workplace?

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The importance of workplace safety measures cannot be overstated and it is well known amongst employees, especially since they spend a large amount of their time within the workplace and need to feel safe in order to be productive.

With this in mind we look at fire safety in the workplace, it is common for businesses to have fire safety equipment, exit drills, signage and other protective measures in place, after all these protocols are put in place to ensure the safety of employees. 

Now that we have an understanding of why fire safety rules are needed within the workplace we can now unpack the various aspects of fire safety in the workplace and who is responsible for these specific points. 

Employer Responsibilities

Prepare a fire Safety Plan

As an employer it is the businesses responsibility to implement fire preparedness plans and eliminate the risk of a fire from occurring within the workplace, both to remain OSHA compliant and for the safety of their employees.

In the event of a fire breaking out a business should be prepared and have a plan in place to ensure that all employees are able to evacuate the premises safely. 

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration all businesses with more than 10 employees must have a fire safety plan, this plan must outline the actions to be taken in the event of a fire. 

In order to gain a better understanding of how to create a fire safety plan that is both effective and OSHA compliant implementing an occupational health and safety solution, such as Safety Assure can prove to be very helpful as the application provides a knowledge base function to stay up to date with various compliance requirements.

Introducing a fire safety plan can provide a solid foundation for the next point, educating employees on the fire safety protocols. 

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Educate employees on the fire safety plan

Introducing a fire safety plan is no longer enough, a business must be certain that their employees have a thorough understanding of the steps to be taken should a fire break out, therefore employers must educate all their employees on the fire safety plan. 

Should key employees with responsibilities change or if the plan changes, for example due to the business moving to a new worksite, the business must be willing to go through the plan again and educate employees. It is also important to note that OSHA requires that employees also be trained to use fire safety equipment, this could be in the form of an staff elected safety champion or a health and safety officer. The employees must also regularly undertake refresher courses annually for the equipment they are tasked with using. 

Install fire prevention tools 

If the business owns the worksite on which they operate on it is their responsibility to install and maintain fire prevention tools and remain compliant with the relevant fire codes. 

It is the employers responsibility to install the fire preventative equipment required, this may vary depending on business and their processes however fire extinguishers, a fire suppression system such as water sprinklers, legible signage and portable lighting are all highly recommended. Maintenance of these tools and equipment must also be undertaken regularly by the employer.

Employee responsibilities

Understand the fire safety procedures

A fire breaking out on a worksite can be a very intense situation for many employees to experience, once panic sets in an employee may do something out of character that can jeopardize the safety of many employees as well as their own. 

In order to avoid this it is the employees responsibility to learn the fire safety procedures taught by the business, if an employee is required to make use of fire safety equipment, such as a fire extinguisher, then it is also their responsibility to have a thorough understanding of how to do so. 

A strong grasp of the fire safety procedures can help prevent dangerous situations from being exacerbated and lead to a calmer exit. 

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Internal safety officers 

Employees are receptive to fellow employees, particularly those with natural leadership ability. To increase the adoption rate of new rules and regulations a business will employ a safety officer or employee elected health and safety champion. The role of these officers is to lead employees in certain situations. If there is a fire drill it will be the responsibility of the safety officer to direct people, conduct final inspections or utilize the fire extinguishers. 

Outsourced safety vendors

Businesses are complex entities that often conduct a number of processes, it is due to this reason that businesses outsource certain tasks. Outsourcing their fire safety processes to an external entity can be a tempting prospect for many as it limits their liability while ensuring that important tasks are completed. Safety vendors responsibilities vary however these businesses will usually take responsibility for certain procedures such as the installation and maintenance of fire suppression systems and safety equipment. In some cases safety vendors will also conduct the safety training that will be held for employees. 

Fire safety in the workplace should not be an overlooked facet of occupational health and safety, by understanding the various roles and responsibilities both employers and employees can ensure that their business remains safe under any circumstances. 

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