A Look into Shop Emergency Plans and Safety Precautions 

June 2024

The fabricator’s shop floor is unlike any other environment because it constantly changes. Therefore, emergency plans must be established and updated with any changes to the shop. 

According to OSHA 1910.38(c), Emergency action plans — Minimum elements of an emergency action plan, an emergency action plan must include, at a minimum, the following: 

• Procedures for reporting a fire or other emergency; 

• Procedures for emergency evacuation, including type of evacuation and exit route assignments; 

• Procedures to be followed by employees who remain to operate critical plant operations before they evacuate; 

• Procedures to account for all employees after evacuation; 

• Procedures to be followed by employees performing rescue or medical duties; and 

• The name or job title of every employee whom other employees may contact for more information about the plan or an explanation of their duties under the plan. 

When Layouts Change So Must Your Plan 

Fabricated material alters the shop environment. A change to the number of workstations on the shop floor also alters the environment. Did you install a new piece of equipment that affects the exit route? All these scenarios call for an update to emergency plans — Fig. 1. 

OSHA 1910.34, Coverage and definitions, defines an exit route as “a continuous and unobstructed path of exit travel from any point within a workplace to a place of safety (including refuge areas).”

WD Jun 24 - A Look into Shop Emergency Plans and Safety Precautions
Fig. 1.jpg
Fig. 1 — An obstructed exit after the installation of new equipment.


Additionally, OSHA 1910.38(f)(3), Coverage and definitions—Review of emergency action plan, says an employer must review the emergency action plan with each employee covered by it when it is changed.  

Fire and Health Precautions 

Another important concern is if everyone knows where the nearest fire extinguisher is located as well as how to use it. If portable fire extinguishers are provided by the employer, OSHA 1910.157(g)(1), Portable fire extinguishers — Training and education, requires that the employer shall also provide an educational program to familiarize employees with the general principles of fire extinguisher use. Fire extinguishers should have a tag on them indicating when the last annual maintenance check was performed. The tag helps visually identify this maintenance for compliance with OSHA 1910.157(e)(3), Portable fire extinguishers — Inspection, maintenance and training. However, annual inspections aren’t the only requirement. Portable fire extinguishers should be visually inspected monthly per OSHA 1910.157(e)(2), Portable fire extinguishers — Inspection, maintenance and training. 

It is also a good idea to have members of the local fire department conduct a walk-through of your workplace so they are familiar with the layout and any potential hazards. This could help emergency services personnel be better prepared in the event of an emergency at their workplace. 

There are all sorts of rules and regulations in place intended to ensure you go home at the end of every workday, but work-related injuries and hazards are not the only events for which you should have an emergency plan. 

A quick internet search will show that year after year, in the United States, the leading cause of death is heart disease.  Does someone at your worksite know CPR? Does your job have an automated external defibrillator (AED)? 

According to the National Institutes of Health, emergency medical service (EMS) units average seven minutes from the time of a 911 call to arrival on the scene. That median time increases to more than 14 minutes in rural settings, with one out of ten encounters waiting almost a half hour for the arrival of EMS personnel. The cost of a CPR training class and an AED are less than the value you and your family would place on your life.  

Be Proactive

As an emergency medical technician (EMT), I am trained to deal with emergencies. That training was extensive and repetitive, and learning was reinforced by doing.  

As a welder, I am trained in how to weld. That training was extensive and repetitive, and learning was reinforced by doing. However, being a certified welder, just like being an EMT, is not a one-and-done certification event. It takes continued practice and training. 

Having an emergency action plan sitting on the shelf collecting dust does not qualify as being prepared for an emergency. It requires learning reinforced with doing. You will never regret being overprepared, but you will always regret being underprepared. 


This article was written by Matthew Haaksma (Certified Welding Inspector with Orange County Ironworks LLC, Montgomery, N.Y.) for the American Welding Society.