Flame / Fire Retardant

How to prevent combustion or slow down the spread of fire

Flame RetardantTo ensure fire safety in the workplace, it is the employer's responsibility to keep their employees aware of fire hazards and informed about proper procedures for fire prevention. "Fires wreak havoc among workers and their families and destroy thousands of businesses each year, putting people out of work and severely impacting their livelihoods", said former Secretary of Labor Robert B. Reich. "The human and financial toll underscores the serious nature of workplace fires."

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), workplace fires and explosions injure more than 5,000 workers and kill 200 more each year. Proper fire prevention, including suitable firefighting equipment and employee training, is the best way to ensure workplace safety.

Fire prevention in a spray, wrap or varnish

Fire and flame retardants are available as paints, additives, sprays, varnishes, caulking, wraps and insulation. Some companies also offer plastics, rubbers and other products with these retardants already built in. Fire retardants, or materials that are designed to prevent or resist combustion, stop fire by either physical or chemical means. Physically, a fire retardant can cool or dilute the fire, or it can form a protective layer between the fire and the remaining material. Fire retardants can also impede fire by initiating a chemical reaction that breaks down the flame. The most common fire retardants in the workplace are fire extinguishers and the use of surface coatings to prevent combustion. These coatings can resist temperatures as high as 850 degrees Fahrenheit. Flame retardants raise the ignition point of a material in order to make it more difficult to burn. For example, talc powder and calcium carbonate dilute the fuel of a fire which lowers the amount of heat per volume of material that a fire can produce.

Put fire prevention plan in writing if you employ more than 10

Employers must have written fire prevention plans which are easily accessible to workers. (A workplace with 10 or fewer employees can choose to communicate a fire prevention plan orally.) Even once employees have been trained to recognize fire hazards in the workplace, that isn't much good if they don't know how to act or where to go during a fire. Section 1910.39c of the Occupational Safety and Health Act states that the minimum elements of a fire prevention plan are:

  • a list of all major fire hazards, potential ignition sources and types of fire protection equipment necessary to control each major hazard
  • procedures for the proper handling and storage of hazardous materials
  • procedures to dispose of flammable and combustible waste materials
  • procedures for regular safety maintenance on heat-producing equipment
  • the name or job title of employees responsible for maintaining equipment
  • the name or job title of employees responsible for the control of fuel source hazards.
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