Tennessee Employers Urged to Be Fire Smart

Tennessee OSHA is asking employers in the state to use October's National Fire Prevention Month observances to become more familiar with ways to prevent workplace fires. In 2007, 1,431 industrial fires caused more than $37 million worth of damage to businesses in Tennessee, killing one person and injuring 38 people, the agency said recently.

Employers should be in compliance with Tennessee Occupational Safety and Health (TOSHA) standards, for starters. "It is our goal to keep both employers and employees as safe as possible in the workplace. Since October is National Fire Prevention Month, we feel it is very important to be aware of some basic safety tips," said John Winkler, TOSHA's administrator.

The agency says employers can lower their risks by doing these things:

* Go over housekeeping procedures for storage and cleanup of flammable waste and materials.
* Control combustible dust.
* Cover procedures for controlling workplace ignition sources, such as smoking, welding, and burning.
* Provide for proper cleaning and maintenance of heat producing equipment, such as burners, heat exchangers, boilers, ovens, and fryers, and require storage of flammables away from this equipment.
* Inform workers of the potential fire hazards in their work area and prepare emergency evacuation procedures.
* Review emergency evacuation procedures with all new employees and whenever the procedure is changed; make sure all employees are aware of the changes

In addition, every workplace must have enough exits suitably located to enable everyone to get out of the facility quickly. Considerations include the type of structure, the number of persons exposed, the fire protection that is available, the type of industry involved, and the height and type of construction of the building or structure. Fire exits must not be blocked or locked when employees are inside. To contact TOSHA consultative services, call 800-249-8510.

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