‘Expect the unexpected’ is one phrase that comes to mind when considering how healthcare offices run. An example of an unforeseen event is an emergency and/or fire scenario. These situations can quickly turn a normal day into a life-altering crisis.
Data shows there are an average of 5,750 fires reported annually in healthcare facilities, resulting in about $50.4 million in property damage. This doesn’t account for the potential loss of life or emotional trauma.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), as a federal protector of workers, advocates for strong safety measures during emergencies.
Emergency and fire preparedness are vital elements of a safe, efficient healthcare office, not just legal obligations. Following OSHA rules shows dedication to employee safety.
Every year, there are hundreds of fire-related incidents in healthcare facilities, leading to injuries, property damage, and the loss of life. Understanding OSHA’s emergency and fire preparedness regulations can significantly reduce these risks.
Under the General Duty Clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, OSHA requires healthcare practices to maintain safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. This encompasses an effective emergency action plan (EAP) and a fire prevention plan (FPP), both of which are critical in minimizing damage and ensuring employee safety during emergencies.
Emergency Action Plan (EAP): OSHA’s Minimum Requirements
An EAP is a well-structured plan detailing the actions employees must take in case of an emergency. The OSHA standard for emergency action plans demands that they at least contain:
- Procedures for reporting fires and other emergencies.
- Methods for emergency evacuation, including exit route assignments.
- Procedures for employees who stay behind to run key activities before being evacuated.
- Procedures to account for all employees after evacuation.
- Rescue and medical duties for those employees performing them.
- The preferred means of alerting employees to an emergency.
Moreover, the plan must be in writing, kept in the workplace, and available to employees for review. However, if you have 10 or fewer employees, the plan can be communicated orally.
Fire Prevention Plan (FPP): OSHA Guidelines
The OSHA guidelines for a fire prevention plan must cover the following:
- List any key fire hazards, proper hazardous material handling and storage techniques, potential ignition sources and their control, and the type of fire protection equipment required to control each major hazard.
- Controlling the accumulation of flammable and combustible waste products.
- Procedures for maintaining the safeguards installed on heat-producing equipment to prevent the unintentional ignition of flammable materials on a regular basis.
- Employees’ names or work titles who oversee maintaining devices installed to prevent or regulate ignitions.
- Employees in charge of controlling fuel source dangers are identified by name or job title.
Like the EAP, the FPP must be in writing, kept in the workplace, and available for employees to review. The same guidelines apply here if there are 10 or fewer employees, the plan can be communicated orally.
Implementing OSHA’s Emergency and Fire Preparedness Guidelines
- Employee Training: Training is crucial when it comes to implementing your EAP and FPP. Conduct yearly training sessions and drills to familiarize your staff with emergency procedures, routes, and assembly points.
- Assign Roles: Designate individuals responsible for critical operations and those in charge of the evacuation. Ensure they have the skills to perform their duties effectively.
- Maintain Equipment: Regularly inspect and maintain your fire prevention and protection equipment. This includes fire extinguishers, smoke detectors, fire suppression systems, and emergency lighting systems.
- Cleanliness and Orderliness: Properly and regular dispose of combustible waste and maintain orderliness to prevent accidental fires.
- Review and Update Your Plans: At least once per year, review your EAP and FPP, making necessary adjustments to accommodate changes in staff, equipment, or your facility’s layout.
Fire and emergency preparedness in healthcare offices are not topics to be taken lightly. As a medical and dental compliance company, we can help you navigate OSHA requirements and tailor an emergency action and fire prevention plan that suits your needs.
At Total Medical Compliance, we believe in proactive OSHA and HIPAA compliance. We invite you to check out our Emergency and Fire Preparedness course to learn more about creating a safe, compliant workplace environment. Stay compliant to stay safe!