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Fire Prevention Week: Workplace Safety
>>AMY SUSAN: Today marks the start of the 85th Fire Prevention Week, making it the longest running public safety and health observance on record. Every year we are reminded about the dangers surrounding fires and houses, but this week we’re going to talk about how fire safety can save lives in the workplace. I’m joined here with State Fire Marshal Randy Cole, as well as Daniel Stark. He’s the Assistant Director of Labor Standards within the Department of Labor, and we’re here to talk about that very important topic. So, Randy, tell us why is fire safety so important in general?
>>RANDY COLE: Well, that’s simple. In the United States we experience about 3,000 fire fatalities a year, so first and foremost is life safety, life and death issues. How to react is key to reducing the risks of being injured in a fire-related situation. Smoke inhalation is the leading cause of death in fires, so it drives home the point of the need for smoke alarms. And make sure you maintain your smoke alarms properly. It is the first line of defense, and 75 percent of the fatality fires that occur in the nation occur at home.
>>SUSAN: Knowing approximately 180 to 280 fire injuries happen in the workplace every year, does fire awareness stop at home?
>>COLE: Absolutely not. Fire is not discriminatory. Happens any time, anywhere. You know, we spend a lot of our hours a day working in a workplace and it’s just as important to practice fire safety in a workplace as it is at home. Maybe more importantly at a workplace because of the uncontrollable factors that we have in relation to other people into the situation of being exposed to a fire, you not knowing what the reaction is going to be. You’re not aware of what their past experience has been in relation to fire safety behaviors.
>>SUSAN: Now, Daniel, part of your job is to help workplaces be in compliance with OSHA regulations. Can you tell us what regulations regarding in surrounding fire hazards that employers should have in place?
>>DANIEL STARK: Yes. In addition to local city codes regarding life safety and fire regulations, employers throughout the State of Missouri need to comply with OSHA regulations found under 29 CFR 1910, sub-part E and sub-part L. Sub-part E basically deals with exit routes and emergency action and fire prevention plans. Emergency action plans deals with your different types of emergencies, like tornados, fire, bomb threats, train derailments and things of that nature. Also, a fire prevention plan deals with where the employer makes a list of what the major workplace fire hazards are and how they’re gonna deal with those major workplace fire hazards.
>>SUSAN: Are there any fines associated if you do find an employer or OSHA finds an employer not adhering to those regulations?
>>STARK: Yes, there are fines. The typical OSHA fine in the State of Missouri runs about $849, and we see the citations that OSHA writes, not only in Kansas City, but also St. Louis. And occasionally we do see where an employer was fined for not having an emergency action or a fire prevention plan.
>>SUSAN: What tips or solutions do you have for employers and workers to make sure that they are safe from fire hazards?
>>STARK: To comply with life safety good. That’s a good thing to comply with, along with OSHA’s standards for emergency action and fire prevention program. And if you’re dealing with chemicals, a great resource is to reference the Material Safety Data Sheet for that particular chemical.
>>SUSAN: Are there certain industries that are more susceptible to fire-related injuries?
>>STARK: Typically, in production-type facilities if--if they engage in welding-type operations or deal in spray finishing or handle a lot of flammable liquids, you’ll see a lot more fire issues in those--in those types of industries.
>>SUSAN: Tell us what you would like workplaces to pay special attention to this week.
>>COLE: Well, even though this is Fire Prevention Week, we want to make sure that we not just do it this particular week of the year. We want to make sure that we are--recognize fire safety issues throughout the year. But at least this week we would like folks to walk through the work area of their workplace, identify any potential fire safety hazards that they might see and report those to the supervisor. You know, things that we look at are overloaded outlets, extension cords that are improperly used, open burning as far as candles in the workplace, combustible materials too close to potential ignition sources.
>>SUSAN: Bottom line, is there any workplace that’s immune from a fire hazard?
>>STARK: Absolutely not. Nobody’s immune from fire hazards.
>>COLE: Fire strikes anywhere, as I said. We want to make sure people are prepared to react to a fire situation. Make sure when the alarm sounds in any building that you’re in that you take action, that you actually exit the building as it is intended, because sometimes the mindset of people are that it’s a false alarm, somebody’s burnt popcorn in a workplace. But we want to make sure that you take the action that is required when a fire alarm system activates.
>>SUSAN: Thank you both for joining us today. And if you all have any questions you can visit Labor.Mo.gov. Click on News and Notices and then click on Labor Talk Podcast.