OSHA's Environmental Health & Safety requirements can be extremely
costly to implement, but there are ways to save thousands of dollars on
at least parts of the requirements. If you are an employer who is
required to implement an employee emergency evacuation system, also
known as an employee alarm system, to satisfy one of OSHA's standards,
this article will help you do that.
The purpose of OSHA's
29 CFR 1910.165 is to provide an early warning system for
implementing emergency action and to give employees time to safely
escape a building or area in the event of an emergency situation.
Below are some examples of instances that require an emergency
evacuation system, including links to OSHA's website for more
29 CFR 1910.37, Maintenance, safeguards, and operational
features for exit routes
29 CFR 1910.38, Emergency action plans
29 CFR 1910.66, Powered platforms for building maintenance
29 CFR 1910.106, Flammable and combustible liquids
29 CFR 1910.120, Hazardous waste operations and emergency
29 CFR 1910.157, Portable fire extinguishers
29 CFR 1910.160, Fixed extinguishing systems, general
29 CFR 1910.161, Fixed extinguishing systems, dry chemical
29 CFR 1910.162, Fixed extinguishing systems, gaseous agent
29 CFR 1910.164, Fire detection systems
What is an emergency evacuation system? According to OSHA, "An
employee alarm system can be any piece of equipment and/or device
designed to inform employees that an emergency exists or to signal the
presence of a hazard requiring urgent attention. National Fire
Protection Association (NFPA) 72, National Fire Alarm Code, requires a
fire alarm signal to be distinctive in sound from other signals and can
not be used for any other purpose."
The OSHA Standard goes on to say that you can use audible alarms that
"include bells, horns, sirens, voice announcement systems, and other
devices that can be distinguished above and apart from the normal sound
level within the workplace." They say the most effective means are voice
signals or an interrupted steady sound (off and on sound).
One of OSHA's recommendations is a "Workplace Announcement System."
Here's how they define that: "Speakers can be used to play a live or
recorded voice message. They are often ideally suited for large
workplaces where phased or guided evacuations are needed."
Employee Alarm Systems web page for more information on these
In businesses that have large buildings or cover a lot of ground,
installing a wired emergency evacuation system can cost tens of
thousands of dollars. What you will learn here is how to do it for a
fraction of the normal cost.
The heart of this system is a
Wireless PA System. A wireless PA
system consists of a wireless receiver box connected to a horn PA
speaker via a cable, and then some sort of wireless transmitting device,
which could be a
two-way radio or base-station intercom.
Someone who wants to make a page to the Wireless PA system just has
to set the transmitter to the same channel as the wireless PA and then
press the push-to-talk button on the transmitter.
The system has a range of up to a mile or more and the range can even
be extended by adding an external antenna to either the Wireless PA, the
transmitter, or both. If you have a wired PA system already, you can
also get a Wireless PA System Interface device that will receive
transmissions from radios and then broadcast those transmissions over
your wired PA system.
There are several devices that can communicate with the Wireless PA
system. The indoor or outdoor Customer Service Call Box is one of them.
It can be used as a panic button that when pressed sends a recorded
message to two-way radios, base-station intercoms, or to a wireless or
wired public address system.
You can record whatever message you want, or you could simply record
a siren sound that plays when the button is pressed. If you have
multiple areas where you need a panic button, then youâ€™ll want to make
sure you can distinguish between the recordings so you know where to
There are other devices you can add to your system such as
if you have locations outside that need to broadcast
emergency messages from a fixed location.
A wireless call box is essentially a two-way radio in a heavy duty
water-resistant housing. When its button is pressed, the person pressing
the button can talk to other hand-held radios, base station
and even the Wireless PA system.
There are some situations where placing a phone call to notify an
emergency response team is just not fast or reliable enough. With a
wireless call box, a simple press of a button notifies everyone that
needs to know. Probably the best way of using it would be to have it
contact emergency personnel who then make pages over the employee alarm
Keeping your employees safe in any way you can should be a top
priority of yours. Using all of these devices as an employee alarm
system is one way to do that, while saving thousands of dollars over the
cost of a wired system.