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The Human Factor is Key to Workplace Fire Safety

Written by Steve Hudgik

Engage employees in your fire safety program and improve teamwork

There are plenty of codes and standards developed and disseminated by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration, the American National Standards Institute and the National Fire Protection Association defining what it takes to maintain a fire safe workplace.

From hazardous material handling, welding and arc flash to pipe systems, dust abatement and flammable solvents, there are plenty of fire hazards scattered throughout any industrial facility. Each one has its own safety label identification requirements defining proper usage, handling, maintenance and disposal to minimize risk of fire. Wayfinding also plays an important role in facility fire safety. Signage clearly identifying evacuation routes and exits has to clearly show the way to safety when a fire hazard erupts.

While all these OSHA, ANSI and NFPA identification standards are of great value and do indeed minimize and prevent incidents of fire in industrial settings, the human factor is the most likely part of the safety equation to cause, prevent or react to a fire hazard.

Where's The Fire Safety Plan?

Every industrial facility has a fire safety plan. Where's your plan? Is it in a folder that is pulled out of a drawer for a new employee to read and check off, only to be returned to the drawer until the next mandatory annual reading?

OSHA regulation 1915.502 states the following. "The employer must develop and implement a written fire safety plan that covers all the actions that employers and employees must take to ensure employee safety in the event of a fire."

Notice that the OSHA regulation mentions actions that employees must take. It's up to management to make employee involvement more than just a calm and orderly march to the fire exit when the alarm sounds.

Whose Fire Safety Plan Is It?

Fire safety should be everyone's plan, not just management's plan. Adopt a simple idea from Lean Manufacturing programs like Kanban or Total Productive Maintenance; put the power in the hands of the people.

  • Build a volunteer committee to manage, monitor and review the fire safety plan.
  • Have committee members learn the standards and report on compliance throughout the facility.
  • Depending on facility size and staffing level, utilize this committee to handle other safety issues as well such as first aid or CPR training.

It has been proven that when workers are encouraged to have a say in operations, they become more engaged. That engagement often spreads to other workers and teams and has the potential to measurably impact organizational culture and productivity.

Ensure the compliance and the success of your facility's fire safety plan by making it everyone's plan.

The information presented in this document was obtained from sources that we deem reliable; Graphic Products does not guarantee accuracy or completeness. Graphic Products, Inc. makes no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied. Users of this document should consult municipal, state, and federal code and/or verify all information with the appropriate regulatory agency.

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