Large or small, industrial or office building, whatever your business is, fire safety should always be a top priority. In the workplace, that means having a fire prevention plan and an emergency response plan in place so that all employees know what to do if a fire occurs.

What should a workplace fire safety program include?

There are two aspects to fire safety in the workplace.

  • Fire prevention plan. The main purpose of this is to prevent a fire from occurring in your workplace.
  • Emergency response plan. If a fire breaks out (or other emergency occurs), this tells employees what to do and gives escape and evacuation routes.

It is important to note that fire safety is addressed in specific standards for recordkeeping, the general industry, shipyard employment, marine terminals, longshoring, gear certification, and the construction industry.

What are the OSHA standards requiring a fire prevention plan?

General Industry standard 29 CFR 1910.39 (fire prevention plan) outlines the requirements for a workplace plan.

OSHA Resources for you:
OSHA Standards related to fire safety.
OSHA Hazards and Possible Solutions related to fire safety.
Additional resources from OSHA related to fire safety.

What are the minimum elements of a fire prevention plan?

Per OSHA, a workplace fire prevention plan must include:

  • A list of all major fire hazards, proper handling and storage procedures for hazardous materials, potential ignition sources and their control, and the type of fire protection equipment necessary to control each major hazard.
  • Procedures to control accumulations of flammable and combustible waste materials.
  • Procedures for regular maintenance of safeguards installed on heat producing equipment to prevent the accidental ignition of combustible materials.
  • The name or job title of the employee(s) responsible for maintaining equipment to prevent or control sources of ignition or fires and the name or job title of the employee(s) responsible for the control of fuel source hazards.

What are the OSHA standards that apply to an emergency response plan?

General Industry standards regarding means of egress include:
29 CFR 1910.36 (design/construction of exit routes),
29 CFR 1910.37 (maintenance/safeguards/features for exit routes) and
29 CFR 1910.38 (emergency action plans).

What are the minimum elements of an emergency response plan?

An emergency response plan describes how employees will respond to different types of emergencies. At a minimum, it should include:

  • Procedures for reporting fires and other emergencies
  • Evacuation procedures and emergency escape route assignments
  • Procedures for employees who remain to operate critical plant operations before they evacuate
  • Accounting for all employees after an emergency evacuation has been completed
  • Rescue and medical duties for employees performing them
  • Names or job titles of persons who can be contacted

What should you do to ensure your workplace complies with OSHA’s emergency standards?

When developing or updating your plan, thoroughly assess your workplace to determine how prepared you are for emergencies. Take an all-hazard approach when considering possible emergencies. Develop a plan that covers:

  • Design and construction of exit routes, including the capacity, height and width plus requirements for any exit routes that are outside the building
  • The safe use of exit routes, lighting and marking, fire retardant paints, maintenance and safeguards
  • Emergency action plans to facilitate and organize actions during workplace emergencies
  • Portable fire extinguishers and fixed extinguishing systems
  • Fire detection systems and employee alarm systems

What can employees and safety professionals do to assist with fire safety?

A few ideas include:

  • Keep work areas clean of items that can easily catch fire – reduce desktop clutter, keep waste paper to a minimum
  • Check electrical cords for damage on a regular basis
  • Don’t overload the circuits
  • Turn off electrical appliances at the end of the day or when not in use
  • Ensure employees are aware of any fire hazards they may be exposed to in their day-to-day work

Develop a fire safety plan checklist specifically for your workplace. Your employees can customize it based on what works in different departments or different jobs within the company.


This blog was originally posted October 7, 2015, but has been updated with additional sources.

Photo credit: TheAlieness GiselaGiardino²³ extinguished via photopin (license)