EPCRA is a US law. So, in the interest of equal time, here’s an article on a parallel topic for our Canadian members. It’s an overview of fire preparedness and response requirements in the OHS laws. There’s also a chart that summarizes the general fire protection requirements in each jurisdiction’s OHS law.
What the Law Requires
Although specific details vary by jurisdiction, the general obligations under the OHS laws are similar. There are 3 sets of obligations:
- Creating and implementing a fire preparedness and response plan for your workplace;
- Providing fire response training to your workers; and
- Supplying the appropriate firefighting equipment at your workplace.
3 Steps of Compliance
Here’s what you need to do to comply with each of these obligations:
1. Implement a Plan for Responding to Fires
Some Canadian jurisdictions, such as Fed, AB, BC, MB, NL, NT, NU, QC and YT, require employers to have plans for responding to general emergencies in the workplace, including fires. Saskatchewan specifically requires employers to have written fire safety plans that include preparedness and response measures. Whether your company addresses fire responses in a fire safety plan or general emergency plan, make sure that your plan:
[ ] Sets out procedures in case of a fire, including sounding the fire alarm, notifying the fire department and evacuating workers and others(including anyone who’s disabled and may need special assistance);
[ ] Identifies individuals designated to carry out specific duties under the plan and describes their specific responsibilities;
[ ] Describes the training that must be provided to each individual with fire response duties;
[ ] Covers the procedures for and frequency of fire drills to verify the effectiveness of the plan, as well as identify and correct weaknesses; and
[ ] Incorporates measures to control fire hazards, such as storage of flammable substances and explosives.
2. Provide Appropriate Training
All workers must be trained on the company’s fire and other emergency response procedures. But workers designated to perform specific duties under your fire response plan, such as evacuating their area of the workplace or putting out the fire, must get special training. For example, BC requires workers assigned to firefighting duties to get adequate training by a qualified instructor in:
- Fire suppression methods;
- Fire prevention;
- Emergency procedures, organization and chain of command;
- Firefighting crew safety; and
3. Supply the Appropriate Fire Protection Equipment
Employers must provide adequate and appropriate fire protection equipment, most notably portable fire extinguishers. Many jurisdictions require the number, installation, maintenance and inspection of fire protection equipment to comply with the National Fire Code or local fire code’s requirements and/or the manufacturer’s requirements. In addition, areas of the workplace that are particularly vulnerable to fire, such as where welding is done, may require additional fire protection equipment.
Providing fire protection equipment is only step one. You must also ensure that this equipment is regularly inspected, usually at least once a year, and properly maintained so that it’s operational in the event of an emergency. And if a fire extinguisher has been used, you must ensure that it’s either refilled or replaced.
Although some workplaces are more vulnerable than others, fire hazards exist in every workplace—even accounting offices. You can’t simply rely on the fire department to put out a fire in your workplace. The OHS laws expect companies to engage in fire preparedness and response planning and ensure that everybody at your workplace has the training and equipment they need to carry out their responsibilities under the plan.