FIRE SAFETY. WHAT IS THE DEFINITION OF IT?
Fire Safety is the set of practices intended to reduce the destruction caused by fire. Fire safety measures include those that are intended to prevent ignition of an uncontrolled fire, and those that are used to limit the development and effects of a fire after it starts. It is important to remember, that just like health and safety and workplace and human rights issues, fire safety requirements have some pretty significant enforcement guidelines that businesses and employers must follow to ensure the safety and investment they have as a company and for their employees.
Although fire safety and prevention may seem like a small portion of the whole “safety in the workplace’ façade”, with increased regulations and enforcement in reaction to events such as the Sunrise Propane explosion in Toronto of 2008, the large fire and explosion of a fertilizer plant in West Texas in April 2013 or the loss of over 32 lives as a result of a nursing home fire in Quebec in February 2015. These events continue to prove the importance of strong fire safety practices and the specific rules and regulations behind them. These regulations are not only based on the Ontario Fire Code, but also the Ministry of Labor and Ontario Health and Safety Act which enforces not only fire safety, but equipment and minimum training standards for employees including fire extinguisher training, fire drills and the understanding of a workplace fire safety plan. It is the law that employers must provide adequate fire safety training to their employees, or risk receiving significant monetary fines or charges from the local fire department fire prevention division, or Ministry of Labor inspectors.
All businesses in Ontario fall under the rules and regulations of the Ontario Health and Safety Act. In the regulated OSHA green book, when it comes to Fire Safety it states:
Every worker who may be required to use fire extinguishing equipment shall be trained in its use. O. Reg. 145/00, s. 16.
Fire extinguishing equipment shall be provided at readily accessible and adequately marked locations at a project. O. Reg. 213/91, s. 52 (1).
THE ONTARIO FIRE CODE STATES:
OFC 184.108.40.206. A fire safety plan and/or a copy of fire emergency procedures shall be available and used in case of fire, posted procedures instructing occupants regarding emergency evacuation, training of supervisory staff and instruction of other occupants in their responsibilities for fire safety.
With the new focus of priorities in the fire service over the last few years from a firefighting or suppression based approach, to an education and prevention method, as well as increased staffing of fire prevention inspectors and officers have resulted in greater enforcement regarding fire safety and a much larger scale of responsibilities for local business’ and industry to meet these regulations. Looking at some of the most recent reports of concern from fire prevention bureau’s, many issues include maintaining adequate and un-blocked emergency exits, ensuring all fire extinguishers are fully charged and operational, fire panels, emergency lighting and exit signs are working and in a ready state. Housekeeping issues have been on the increase due to increased industrial hoarding, storage and handling of combustible goods and chemicals as well as electrical room safety.
Ministry of Labor inspectors are responsible for enforcing all legislated OSHA documentation that is in place including health and safety policies and all training documentation for any training that is provided by the employer, no matter the subject matter. Inspectors will look at anything from general housekeeping to personal protective equipment, to all training and certifications. They will also focus on special hazards such as MSDS sheets, use of chemicals, compressed gases and storage, hazardous material remediation and most importantly, fire safety practices. If there is a section in the OSHA green book including fire safety, it will be strictly enforced according to MOL inspectors.
Ministry of Labor Inspectors and Fire Prevention Officers will not necessarily make an appointment before showing up to your place of business, but rather give a surprise visit if warranted. During my experience as an industrial firefighter for many years, prior to joining a municipal fire service, it seems that the continuing trend of attitudes from many staff supervisors, business owners or employers is “that a fire will never happen here” or “fire incidents always seem to happen to other people, you know the ones you see on the news”. Many people have the mindset that a fire emergency will never happen to them. Every single fire call we respond to is a result of that same mindset, where we encounter people every day that thought “this would never happen to them” either.
Education, prevention and preparation are the keys to a Fire Safe workplace, and will also work to reduce the money lost as a result of unnecessary fines, criminal charges and lost production for a business. Employee training and awareness of fire safety practices, knowledge of the legal requirements and the provided regulations is one extra step that will keep your business safer, as well as the local ministry of labor and fire prevention inspectors satisfied. The end result will be a better working relationship with your business and local inspectors, whether it is dealing with them on a day to day, monthly or annual basis.
Adam McFadden is a professional firefighter for one of the largest fire departments in Canada. He is the owner of Firehouse Training and is also a lead instructor for Total Rescue Safety Training and Consulting in the Fire & Life Safety Division based out of Fergus, Ontario.
FIRE SAFETY. WHAT IS THE DEFINITION OF IT?