Fight of Flee?

There is a simple test to determine if your business needs an emergency evacuation plan EAP. If your business has fire extinguishers on site, and if anyone needs evacuation when there is a fire or another emergency plan, then under OSHA’s 29 CFR 1910.157 you need an emergency evacuation plan.

Who Needs an Evacuation Plan?


There is one exception to this rule as well, if your business has its own firefighting team where all employees are taught, trained, and has the proper equipment for fighting fires, then no evacuation plan is needed as everyone is fighting the fire.

Nevertheless, most times, immediate evacuation is the safest policy. This is especially true when professional firefighter services are nearby and can be rapidly deployed. Still, there may be times where the employee fire brigade should be deployed. Reasons for this include:

·         Giving fellow employees time for escaping

·         Prevent danger to others if the fire spreads

·         Protect the community from an explosion or another catastrophe

In any event, the employer must have an EAP to safely evacuate those not fighting the fire.

The Fight or Flee Conundrum


The major reason for a small or medium business evacuation is fire, and business owners need a plan for this event. On one hand, a well-trained employee with a portable fire extinguisher. On the other hand, if you decide to have trained employees using small extinguishers fight the fire while others flee, the plan is far more complicated and employee training must be at a higher level - making things more complicated.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, run by the United States Department of Labor offers the following chart to help with decision making.


Should employees evacuate or be prepared to fight a small fire?

Option 1

Option 2

Option 3

Option 4

Total evacuation of employees from the workplace immediately when alarm sounds. No one is authorized to use available portable fire extinguishers.

Designated employees are authorized to use portable fire extinguishers to fight fires. All other employees must evacuate workplace immediately when alarm sounds.

All employees are authorized to use portable fire extinguishers to fight fires.

Extinguishers are provided but not intended for employee use.

Requirement

Requirement

Requirement

Requirement

Establish an emergency action plan, fire prevention plan and train employees accordingly. Extinguishers are not existing and not required[29 CFR 1910.157(b)(1)].

Establish an emergency action plan and train employees accordingly. Meet all general fire extinguisher requirements plus annually train designated employees to use fire extinguishers. Fire extinguishers in the workplace must be inspected, tested, and maintained [29 CFR 1910.157(b)(2)].

If any employees will be evacuating, establish an emergency action plan and train employees accordingly. Meet all general fire extinguisher requirements plus annually train all employees to use fire extinguishers. Fire extinguishers in the workplace must be inspected, tested, maintained [29 CFR 1910.157(b)(2)].

Establish an emergency action plan, fire prevention plan and train employees accordingly. If fire extinguishers are left in the workplace, they must be inspected, tested, and maintained. Extinguishers are provided but not intended for employee use [29 CFR 1910.157(a)].


Prior to fighting any fire with a portable fire extinguisher you must perform a risk assessment that evaluates the fire size, the 
firefighters evacuation path, and the atmosphere in the vicinity of the fire.

Small contained fires and other fires that are easy to extinguish without putting employees in danger can have an employee put it out. However, business owners must tell employees that when in doubt, get out!

Business owners have a responsibility to evacuate all visitors without delay, as well as any employee not assigned firefighting assignments. Safety is a huge issue, your insurance carrier may provide on-site safety training for your staff. Speak to your insurance advisor today.

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