Fire safety: OSHA compliance guide

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What should employers do to protect workers from fire hazards?

Employers should train workers about fire hazards in the workplace and what to do in a fire emergency. If you want your workers to evacuate, you should train them on how to escape. If you expect your workers to use firefighting equipment, you should give them appropriate equipment and train them to use the equipment safely. (See Title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations Part 1910 Subparts E and L; and Part 1926 Subparts C and F.)

What does OSHA require for emergency fire exits?

Every workplace must have enough exits suitably located to enable everyone to get out of the facility quickly. Considerations include the type of structure, the number of persons exposed, the fire protection available, the type of industry involved, and the height and type of construction of the building or structure. In addition, fire doors must not be blocked or locked when employees are inside. Delayed opening of fire doors, however, is permitted when an approved alarm system is integrated into the fire door design. Exit routes from buildings must be free of obstructions and properly marked with exit signs. (See 29 CFR Part 1910.36 for details about all requirements.)

Do employers have to provide portable fire extinguishers?

No, but if you do, you must establish an educational program to familiarize your workers with the general principles of fire extinguisher use. If you expect your workers to use portable fire extinguishers, you must provide hands-on training for equipment use. (See 29 CFR Part 1910 Subpart L for details.)

Must employers develop emergency action plans?

Not every employer is required to have an emergency action plan. OSHA standards that require such plans include the following:

  • Process Safety Management of Highly Hazardous Chemicals, 1910.119.
  • Fixed Extinguishing Systems, General, 1910.160.
  • Fire Detection Systems, 1910.164.
  • Grain Handling, 1910.272.
  • Ethylene Oxide, 1910.1047.
  • Methylenedianiline, 1910.1050.
  • 1,3 Butadiene, 1910.1051.

When required, employers must develop emergency action plans that:

  • Describe the routes for workers to use and procedures to follow.
  • Account for all evacuated employees.
  • Remain available for employee review.
  • Include procedures for evacuating disabled employees.
  • Address evacuation of employees who stay behind to shut down critical plant equipment.
  • Include preferred means of alerting employees to a fire emergency.
  • Provide for an employee alarm system throughout the workplace.
  • Require an alarm system to include voice communication or sound signals such as bells, whistles, or horns.
  • Make the evacuation signal known to employees.
  • Ensure emergency training.
  • Require employer review of the plan with new employees and with all employees whenever the plan is changed.

Must employers have a fire prevention plan?

OSHA standards that require fire prevention plans include the following:

  • Ethylene Oxide, 1910.1047.
  • Methylenedianiline, 1910.1050.
  • 1,3 Butadiene, 1910.1051.

Employers covered by these standards must implement plans to minimize the frequency of evacuations. All fire prevention plans must:

  • Be available for employee review.
  • Include housekeeping procedures for storage and cleanup of flammable materials and flammable waste.
  • Address handling and packaging of flammable waste. (Recycling of flammable waste such as paper is encouraged.)
  • Cover procedures for controlling workplace ignition sources such as smoking, welding, and burning.
  • Provide for proper cleaning and maintenance of heat producing equipment such as burners, heat exchangers, boilers, ovens, stoves, and fryers and require storage of flammables away from this equipment.
  • Inform workers of the potential fire hazards of their jobs and plan procedures.
  • Require plan review with all new employees and with all employees whenever the plan is changed.

United States Department of Labor. Occupational Safety & Health Administration. OSHA Fact Sheet. Fire Safety in the Workplace. (2002). Retrieved from

KEMI does not assume liability for the content of information contained herein. Safety and health remain your responsibility. This information is to be used for informational purposes only and not intended to be exhaustive or a substitute for proper training, supervision or manufacturers’ instructions/recommendations. KEMI, by publication of this information, does not assume liability for damage or injury arising from reliance upon it. Compliance with this information is not a guarantee or warranty that you will be in conformity with any laws or regulations nor does it ensure the absolute safety of any person, place or object, including, but not limited to, you, your occupation, employees, customers or place of business.