the standard apply to me?
employee alarm systems standard 1910.165
applies to all employers that use an alarm system to satisfy
any OSHA standard that requires employers to provide an
early warning for emergency action, or reaction time for
employees to safely escape the work place, the immediate
work area, or both.
standard also applies to you if an OSHA standard specifically
states that you must install an employee alarm system.
For example, some standards that specifically require
or reference alarm systems include:
of employee alarms
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. The two most common types of alarms
are audible and visual devices.
alarms 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.
are the most common signal device. Bells are commonly
used in schools for fire alarms.
a very loud distinctive sound that immediately
attracts attention. Horns can be useful to call
attention to critical situations.
a loud piercing wail that makes them ideally suitable
for initiating a site-wide evacuation.
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.
Visual alarms use steady, flashing, or strobe lights to
alert workers to an emergency situation in areas where
noise levels are high, especially where ear protection
must be worn and audible signals may not be heard or may
be misunderstood. Visual signals also provide an effective
way to alert workers with hearing loss about an emergency.
lights are well suited for areas where ambient
noise makes audible signals difficult to hear.
These types of lights come with different colored
covers for increased attention and can be ordered
with rotating or flashing lights.
lights use high intensity flash tubes that are
ideally suited for areas where high ambient light
levels make traditional rotating or flashing lights
difficult to distinguish or where ambient noise
makes audible signals difficult to hear.
alarm systems to provide adequate notification in the
event of an emergency, they must be appropriate for the
location you want to protect and either approved by an
independent testing laboratory or they must be: 1910.165(c)(1)
- Capable of being heard, seen, or otherwise perceived
by everyone in the workplace;1910.165(b)(2)
- Distinctive and easily identified by all employees
as a signal to evacuate the
work area or perform actions identified in your emergency
response plan, such as "shelter-in-place";
Alarm Selection Guidelines
To get the most from an alarm system,
follow these guidelines when selecting devices:
- Supervised if they were installed after January
1, 1981 and contain circuitry that is capable of being
supervised. These systems must also provide positive
notification to assigned personnel whenever a deficiency
exists in the system. 1910.165(d)(4)
- Make sure the alarm's sound is as different
from the background noise and light as possible.
Audible alarms should exceed the ambient noise
level by at least six decibels. The light intensity
for visual alarms should be at least 75 candela.
- Use alarms with integrated audible and visual
signals to accommodate the hearing and visually
impaired, and for areas where a person may be
working alone. This includes areas such as restrooms,
storage areas, offices, and similar areas. (These
devices are available for about the same cost
as an audible or visual signal alone).
indicates high-intensity xenon strobe lamps
to be the most effective and white light the
most discernible. Colored lamps, particularly
red, were found to be ineffective even at
very high intensities.
Protection of Alarms
To make sure devices stay operable,
follow these guidelines:
- Avoid using strobe devices that flash at rates above
five flashes per second (fps). Rates above five fps
can trigger seizures in people with certain forms
of epilepsy. When multiple devises are used, either
synchronize or reduce their flash rate so that the
combined rate does not exceed five fps.
- Alarm system components that may be exposed to corrosive
environments should be either made or coated with
a non-corrosive material.
- Position alarm devices away from or out of contact
with materials or equipment which may cause physical
- Alarms that are installed outdoors and need to be
shielded from the weather to work properly must be
protected with a canopy, hood, or other suitable device.
Alarm Placement Guidelines
To ensure your alarm system provides
adequate coverage, follow these guidelines when placing
- All devices should be securely mounted to a solid
surface, such as screwed to a junction box with a
mounting plate or other appropriate method that prevents
them from putting pressure or stress on attached wires
- Put at least one visual alarm in each room and any
other general usage areas (guest restrooms, meeting
rooms) which may be occupied by those with hearing
impairments. You may need more than one alarm per
room for those that exceed the manufacturer's spacing
requirements. For example, if your alarm is rated
for 50 feet, install alarms so they are evenly spaced
with no more then 50 feet between devices.
- Mount visual and audible devices 80 inches above
the highest floor level within the space or six inches
below the ceiling, whichever is lower.
- Manually activated devices for use in conjunction
with alarms must also be:
Unobstructed, conspicuous, and readily
Make available an emergency communications system
such as a public address system, telephone, portable
radio unit, or other means to notify employees of
the emergency and to contact local law enforcement,
the fire department, and others. 1910.165(b)(4)
an alarm system to be effective, you must have an emergency
action plan that addresses how employees, including disabled
workers, will be informed that an emergency exists and
how they should respond. The alarm system must inform
"all affected employees" that an emergency exists
and what their immediate response should be based on the
alarm sequence. This plan should include:
- How and what warning(s) will be
provided through the employee alarm system for necessary
emergency action as called for in the emergency
action plan, or for sufficient reaction time to
allow the safe escape of employees from the workplace
or the immediate work area, or both; 1910.165(b)(1)
- Procedures for sounding emergency alarms in the
workplace. For those employers with 10 or fewer employees
in a particular workplace, direct voice communication
is an acceptable procedure for sounding the alarm
provided all employees can hear the alarm. Such workplaces
do not need a back-up system. 1910.165(b)(5)
- A current list of key personnel, such as the plant
manager or physician, in order of priority, to notify
in the event of an emergency during off-duty hours.
||Is the emergency preparedness
plan reviewed and revised periodically?
each employee know the following?
||How to report an emergency
||The type and meaning of each emergency
alarm or signal
Use distinct signals if
the employee alarm system is used for alerting
fire brigade members, or for other purposes; 1910.38(a)(3)(ii)
||First aid / medical kit locations
||Alarm pull box locations
||Are the following emergency
phone numbers posted?
||Local fire department
||Hospitals and ambulances
||Emergency response team
||Is the employee alarm system recognizable
and perceptible in all areas during emergency conditions?
||Are employee alarm systems properly
maintained and tested regularly?
alarm systems are important life safety devices and must
be maintained in an operating condition at all times except
during repairs or maintenance. 1910.165(d)(1).
Routine Test and Maintenance
- Test the reliability and adequacy of non-supervised
employee alarm systems every two months. Use a different
actuation device in each test of a multi-actuation
device system. 1910.165(d)(2)
- Maintain or replace power supplies as often as necessary
to ensure a fully operational condition. Provide a
back-up means of alarm when systems are out of service.
- The servicing, maintenance, and testing of employee
alarms must be done by properly trained persons. 1910.165(d)(5)
- Do a visual check to ensure that employee alarm
devices are not obstructed/installed in a manner that
would prevent sound or light from reaching or entering
the protected areas.
- Restore all employee alarm systems to normal operating
condition as soon as possible after each test or alarm.
Spare alarm devices and components must be readily
training and education
Employees must know what types of emergencies may occur and what
course of action they must take. Make sure all your employees
understand the function and elements of your emergency
action plan, including types of potential emergencies,
reporting procedures, alarm systems, evacuation plans,
and shutdown procedures. Discuss any special hazards your
workplace may have such as flammable materials, toxic
chemicals, radioactive sources, and/or water-reactive
substances. Your training should address the following:
When your employees know how to
sound an alarm and/or notifying emergency personnel at
the first sign of an emergency, it may make the difference
between life and death.
- Individual roles and responsibilities;
- Threats, hazards, and protective actions;
- Location and operation of manually activated pull
stations and communication equipment;
- Emergency response procedures;
- Evacuation, shelter, and accountability procedures;
- Location and use of common emergency equipment;
- Emergency shutdown procedures.