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Fire regulations for commercial facilities

Flammable Signs
Fire exit signs are easy to install and keep employees aware of where to go in case of an emergency — which can save lives.

Ever since the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in NYC in 1911, the government has regulated workplace safety. Today, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) mandates under Title 8 General Industry Safety Orders, businesses with 10 or more employees must write and implement a workplace fire prevention program. Those with 10 can just communicate the fire prevention program orally. OSHA also conducts routine workplace inspections to make sure employers are adhering to OSHA fire safety standards. OSHA’s standards require employers to provide proper exits, firefighting equipment, emergency plans, and training in fire prevention and control.   According to the Department of Labor, OSHA’s minimum-standard regulations are as follows:

Fire exits

  • At least two means of fire escapes.
  • Fire exits must not be blocked or locked.
  • Exits leading out from the building must not be obstructed and must be properly marked with exit signs.

Fire extinguishers

  • “A full complement” of fire extinguishers for the appropriate type of fire hazard.
  • Fire extinguishers must be properly maintained and routinely inspected.
  • Employees expected to handle fire extinguishers by be properly instructed.

Emergency plan

  • Written emergency evacuation plan that describes escape routes and procedures. Plan must be available for employee review.
  • Special procedures for helping physically impaired employees.
  • Designate the preferred alarm system (voice, bells, whistles, horns).
  • Inform all new employees of emergency procedure.

Fire prevention plan

  • Written fire prevention plan that describes the best techniques to prevent fires. Plan must be available for employee review.
  • Plan must include storage and waste removal procedures for flammable materials.
  • Procedures for controlling workplace ignition sources (smoking, welding and burning) and heat producing equipment (burners, boilers, ovens, stoves). These areas must be maintained properly to prevent combustion. Flammable signs are great tools for alerting employees and customers to the presence of dangerous combustible materials. OSHA also explicitly states in section 1910.106(f)(6) that “No Smoking” signs have to be conspicuously placed where flammable materials are present.
  • Inform all new employees of prevention plan,

Fire suppression system

  • Design, install, and maintain fire suppression systems (sprinklers, alarms, smoke detectors, exit signs).
  • Signs must be posted in areas protected by fire suppression systems that utilize toxic chemicals (Halon 1211, carbon dioxide).

These regulations are just standard guidelines and do not meet the unique needs of every workplace. However, other general tips to improve safety and reduce fire accidents include posting proper signage: flammable signs near combustible materials/chemicals and exit signs for escape routes. According to Maine Municipal Association Risk Management Services, the ideal exit signs must have letters at least 6 inches tall with ¾-inch wide strokes. These signs should also be self-illuminated or by emergency light units (in case the power goes out). Furthermore, it is crucial to establish areas of refuge in case employees are trapped in the building. Also, don’t forget to advise employees never to use elevators in cases of emergency. For additional safety tips, check out the National Fire Protection Association , the leading authority on fire, electrical, and building safety.

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