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Warehouse Fire Safety Guidelines for Fire Prevention Week

Every October, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) sponsors Fire Prevention Week, an informational outreach program designed to teach the public about preventing house fires. In that spirit, we thought we'd list a few of the regulations that are designed to prevent fires in warehouses. Together, we can create safer workplaces and communities with just a little effort on fire prevention.

Federal standards from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) actually dictate many of the fire-safety rules that apply to warehouses. These standards include:

  • 29 CFR 1910.38 - Employee emergency plans.

    This "nonmandatory guideline" is still listed in the OSHA standards, so it's a good idea to comply. It calls for employers to have standing plans in place for any emergency, including a building fire. It encourages the use of color-coded maps indicating escape routes and pre-planned meeting places outside the building. Read the full standard here. 

Warehouse Fire Safety Guidelines for Fire Prevention Week

  • 29 CFR 1910.157 - Portable fire extinguishers.

    This standard is definitely not "nonmandatory." It requires employers to mount clearly identifiable fire extinguishers, generally within 75 feet of employees. It further requires periodic inspection to make sure the extinguishers are in working order, plus training for staff on how to use them.

    There are a few exceptions to this rule, but they're complex, and best left up to an attorney that specializes in OSHA compliance. Read the whole standard here.  
  • 29 CFR 1910.157 - Fire detection systems.

    Employers must install working fire detection systems, such as networks of smoke detectors. The actual number and location of these detectors varies. All OSHA dictates is that it be "based upon design data obtained from field experience, or tests, engineering surveys, the manufacturer's recommendations, or a recognized testing laboratory listing. Read the standard here.
  • 29 CFR 1910.178(g) - Changing and charging storage batteries.

    OSHA does not neglect fire safety in its standards covering forklift battery rooms. According to standard 1910.178(g)(3), "Facilities shall be provided for...fire protection…" While this rule keeps the specifics vague, fire extinguishers and smoke detectors are good places to start when making a plan for fire protection for any industrial space. Find this standard here.

While it's not a federal guideline, the NFPA's Urban Fire Forum (UFF) has looked at the problem of warehouse fires and come up with a powerful way to contain blazes before they sweep through an entire facility. The problem is, the UFF writes in a 2015 Position Statement (available for download here), "ceiling sprinklers alone may not be able to penetrate the fire plume and adequately pre-wet the storage at low levels to prevent the fire from spreading."

The solution, then, is a robust system of in-rack sprinklers. "Because [these] sprinklers pre-wet storage locally, the fire is prevented from spreading," explains the UFF. "Operating in conjunction with ceiling sprinklers, in-rack sprinklers will limit fire spread to a minimum."

This Fire Prevention Week is a great time to get the conversation started about fire safety in warehouses and distribution centers. Prevention is the only safe choice.

References:

"29 CFR 1910.38 - Employee emergency plans." OSHA. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, n.d. Web. 14 Sept. 2017.

"29 CFR 1910.157 - Portable fire extinguishers." OSHA. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, n.d. Web. 14 Sept. 2017.

"29 CFR 1910.164 - Fire detection systems." OSHA. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, n.d. Web. 14 Sept. 2017.

"29 CFR 1910.178 - Powered industrial trucks." OSHA. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, n.d. Web. 14 Sept. 2017.

"UFF Position Statement: Warehouse Fires and Pre-Fire Planning." NFPA. national Fire Protection Association, Urban Fire Forum, Sept. 2015. PDF. 14 Sept. 2017.