Water Well Journal

March 2016

Water Well Journal

Issue link: https://read.dmtmag.com/i/643500

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Page 52 of 85

M ore than 200 fires occur in U.S. workplaces on an av- erage day according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The Bureau of Labor Statis- tics reported 143 workers died from fires in 2011. More than 5000 are injured annually in explosions and fires on the job according to OSHA. Although worker safety is always the first concern, it should be noted the annual cost of workplace fires to Ameri- can businesses is more than $2 billion. Having a fire prevention program in place is crucial for employee safety and regulatory compliance, as is anticipating and controlling hazards. Work on the assumption that all unsafe conditions can be anticipated and controlled and accidents should be able to be prevented. It is also essential that fire prevention training be thorough and consistent. This includes hazard communication training to alert employees where flammable materials exist in the workplace. Train employees on the fire prevention plan, the emergency action plan, and how to use fire extinguishers. What Causes Fires Fire is a chemical reaction requiring three elements to be present for the reaction to take place and continue. They are: heat or an ignition source, fuel, and oxygen. These three ele- ments typically are referred to as the fire triangle. Scientists developed the concept of the fire triangle to help in understanding the cause of fires and how they can be pre- vented and extinguished. Heat, fuel, and oxygen must com- bine in a precise way for a fire to start and continue to burn. If one element of the triangle is not present or is removed, a fire will not start—or if already burning, will be extinguished. Ignition sources can include any material, any equipment, or any operation that emits a spark or flame. Of course that would include obvious items like torches as well as less obvious items like static electricity and grinding operations. Equipment or anything radiating heat, such as catalytic con- verters and mufflers, can also be ignition sources. Fuel sources include combustible materials—wood, paper, trash, and clothing. Fire results from flammable liquids such as gasoline or solvents and flammable gases such as propane or natural gas. The fire triangle's last component, oxygen, comes from the air in the atmosphere. Fire results from the reaction between the fuel and oxygen in the air. Air contains 79% nitrogen and 21% oxygen. OSHA de- scribes a hazardous atmosphere as one that is oxygen-deficient because it has less than 19.5% oxygen, or oxygen-enriched because it has greater than 23.5% oxygen. Both instances are regarded as an atmosphere immediately dangerous to life and health. Depending on the type of fuel involved, fires can occur with a much lower volume of oxygen present than is needed to support human respiration. Fire Prevention Standards When OSHA conducts workplace inspections, it checks to see whether employers are complying with OSHA standards for fire safety. Employers are required by OSHA to implement fire protec- tion and prevention programs in the workplace. The regula- tions applying to fire protection and prevention can be found mainly in Subpart F of the construction standards— 1926.150(f)—although the requirement for a fire prevention program is first set out in Subpart C—1926.150(c). OSHA stipulates businesses should train workers about po- tential fire hazards in their workplace and the procedures to be followed in the event of a fire emergency. OSHA recommends all employers have an emergency evacuation/action plan in place in case of fire, featuring safety assignments for key per- sonnel. These plans are required for industries where workers come into contact with hazardous chemicals. Many of OSHA's fire safety recommendations are specific to an industry or even a job. For example, in the construction industry OSHA calls for a fire plan to be formulated prior to any demolition job. Other OSHA-mandated standards—like adequate fire exits—are required in every industry. Building Fire Exits Each workplace must have at least two means of escape remote from each other. Fire doors must not be blocked or locked when employees are inside the building. Delayed opening of fire doors is permitted when an approved alarm system is integrated into the fire door design. Exit routes must be clear and free of obstructions and marked with signs designating exits from the building. ALEXANDRA WALSH FIRE PREVENTION BASICS It's critical employees know what to do when a fire occurs in the workplace. SAFETY MATTERS 50 March 2016 WWJ waterwelljournal.com Workplace fire safety begins with proper planning and training all employees should receive.

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