Last month we talked about fire drills and their importance. This time, let’s dive deeper into the importance of overall fire protection, prevention and safety to our businesses on a daily basis.
While the use of fire extinguishers, hopefully, is not frequent within your environment, it is important to conduct a fire-extinguisher review to ensure the safety of all employees. Having procedures and frequent reviews in place to identify and mitigate exposures and risks will improve the environment and the people, but also diffuse the situation at the earliest
The goal here is to provide a self-audit that can be conducted to ensure you are in compliance with the OSHA regulatory bodies:
Alarms: Have procedures been established for sounding emergency alarms in the workplace in the event no extinguishing can take place?
Fire plan: A fire plan must be part of your safety plan, which must be in writing if you have 10 or more employees (OSHA 1910.165(b)(5) and 1910.39(b)).
Fire extinguishers: Are portable fire extinguishers provided, mounted, located and identified so they are readily
accessible to employees? A fire extinguisher must be mounted — they cannot be on the floor. Every extinguisher must have a sign to identify where it is located. There must be free and unobstructed access to the extinguisher (you have to be able to get to it without reaching). Extinguishers with a gross weight of 40 pounds or less are installed so the top of the extinguisher is not more than five feet above the floor. Those weighing more than 40 pounds are installed so the top is not more than 3 1/2 feet above the floor (OHSA 1910.157(c)(1)).
Are fire extinguishers inspected monthly for general condition and operability and noted on the inspection tag? The monthly inspection is required and is in addition to the annual certification. This can be done by an employee. Documentation can be on the fire-extinguisher tag or on an inspection sheet. International Standard Organization (ISO) has an inspection sheet that can be used (OSHA 1910.157(e)(2)).
Are fire extinguishers recharged annually and properly noted on inspection tag? Typically, the company will hire a professional to perform this annual inspection and tag all the extinguishers (OSHA 1910.157(e)(3)).
Proper training: Is training provided to familiarize employees with principles of use and hazards involved with incipient stage firefighting? PASS is the acronym for pull the pin, aim at the base of the fire, squeeze the trigger and sweep the fire. A monthly safety meeting based on the PASS acronym would be adequate. This could be added to the employee-orientation program. Documentation of the training is required (OSHA 1910.157(g)(1)).
Inspections: Are fixed extinguishing systems inspected annually to assure the system is maintained in good operating condition? Sprinkler systems must be inspected annually by a state-authorized contractor and the inspection documented. The equipment must be tagged with inspection information (OSHA 1910.160(b)(6) and 1910.160(b)(9)).
Some other things to keep in mind:
Is your local fire department well-acquainted with your plant, location and specific hazards?
Are employees of your organization aware of all plans and procedures around fire prevention and safety?
Prevent an incident before it happens and in time of need, be ALERT!
Your local fire department may have requirements in addition to what is required by OSHA.