Are fire alarms required by OSHA?

Fire alarms and detectors are essential to keeping employees safe in the workplace. Once alarms are set off, the occupants are alerted that a fire is present and subsequent action must be taken immediately. This can either be fighting the fire with fire protection equipment like fire extinguishers, or safely exiting the building. An emergency response team will be required to intervene if the situation becomes uncontrollable.

OSHA’s 29 CFR 1910.164(f) states that “the employer shall assure that the number, spacing and location of fire detectors is based upon design data obtained from field experience, or tests, engineering surveys, the manufacturer’s recommendations, or a recognized testing laboratory listing.” If this statement is upheld in the facility then its employees, residents, and visitors are well protected from injuries caused by fires.

Best Practices

The general guidelines when it comes to knowing where to place fire alarms are as follows:

  • There should be at least one fire detector in each room, storage area, and hallway.
    • Make sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions on how large of an area one fire detector is rated for.
  • There should be at least one detector in closets, elevators, stairwells, dumbwaiter shafts, or other enclosed spaces.
    • Where only one is needed in a room, make sure it is centralized.
  • All fire detectors should be at least three feet from ceiling fans. Fans may interfere with fire detection.
    • Do not install near windows, doors, or ducts where drafts can cause problems with fire detection.
  • To provide the best protection when installing fire alarms, interconnect the alarms to have them all go off when only one is triggered.
    • Make sure they are all from the same manufacturer otherwise this may not be successful.

Overall, there isn’t a direct answer to how many fire alarms one building needs. It solely depends on the specifications of the manufacturer as well as the design of the building. Alarms can be installed by employees as well as hired professionals. If there is any uncertainty in the application of this kind of fire protection equipment, there is always someone to turn to who is an expert.


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