OSHA Fire Protection Guidelines for Commercial and Industrial Buildings

The Occupational Safety and Health Association (OSHA) establishes workplace safety standards for commercial and industrial buildings. Covering an array of safety concerns, OSHA standards apply to different workplaces in different ways, but OSHA fire protection standards apply to all workplaces that are regulated by the association. OSHA guidelines for fire protection are industry specific, but certain guidelines apply to all industries. These fire protection guidelines can be classified in five categories:

Evacuation Routes
Unless a building's size, layout, and occupancy permit it to have only one route, OSHA requires a workplace to have at least two evacuation routes. The doors of evacuation routes must remain unlocked and free of obstruction, although exit doors that feature delayed opening with an approved alarm system are also acceptable. Exit routes must be free of obstructions, and building exits must be marked with OSHA compliant exit signs.

Fire Extinguishers
A building must contain the correct number and type of extinguishers for the hazards that are in its environment. These extinguishers must be kept in proper operating condition, and employees should train to use them. If an employer would rather employees evacuate a building than extinguish minor fires, extinguisher training must be replaced with evacuation training.

Evacuation Planning
Employers must have a written emergency plan that addresses which exit routes employees should use and what procedures they should follow during an evacuation. This plan should be available to all employees. Employers must also train employees on what to do during an evacuation, including: how to assist people who have special needs, and what procedures to follow if equipment must be shut down before evacuation.

Fire Prevention
Employers should develop a written fire prevention plan to help minimize evacuations. This plan should be available to all employees, and should include procedures for cleaning up and storing flammable liquids and materials, and for maintaining and controlling ignition catalysts such as smoking areas, ovens, boilers, etc. The plan should alert employees to the ignition hazards involved with their position.

Fire Suppression
Every building should have a professional fire suppression system that detects fire, activates an alarm, and activates an interior sprinkler system that can detect a fire's location and extinguish it. Sprinkler systems that disperse chemical agents must be indicated by signage and a special alarm that sounds before the agents are dispersed. When a suppression system is down for maintenance, employers should assign trained employees to a fire watch.

Other Important Guidelines

The fire protection guidelines above are general guidelines that apply to all OSHA regulated buildings, but are not the only guidelines that most buildings need. Building owners should also ensure that:

• Luminescent egress markings and building safety signs are applied according to National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) guidelines.

• A generator is properly serviced and tested according to NFPA 110 to ensure that generator powered backup lighting receives power.

• Battery powered backup lighting is properly serviced and tested.

• Arc flash analysis is performed to prevent fires due to arc faults.

At Prime Power, we improve the fire safety of buildings by performing generator testing and arc flash analysis and training. To learn more about OSHA safety regulations, consult OSHA regulations that apply to your industry. To have your generator serviced and tested, or to have your building's electrical system analyzed for arc flash potential, call Prime Power today.