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Life safety systems such as sprinklers, fire extinguishers, fire pumps, and fire alarms all have required tests and inspections to ensure they are running properly. Fire safety systems protect lives and property, and where they are required to be installed there is an authority (such as the AHJ or Fire Department) to inspect them and ensure compliance with state and federal laws.
Effective August 1st (2016), companies with more than 250 employees can expect increased scrutiny and fines under OSHA's new enforcement and penalty policies. Area directors from OSHA can offer companies with fewer than 250 employees a fine reduction of 20%.
Under the new guidelines, fines for incidents increased by 80% to a maximum of $124,709 per citation. If multiple employees are involved - and the violation is deemed egregious by OSHA - the offending company can be cited for each employee at the full $124,709 per citation. The penalty for willful and/or repeat violations is now set at $12,470, and the timeframe for classifying a violation as willful or repeat was expanded by two years, from a 3-year period to 5 years.
Audits by Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services accredited agencies can cause sleepless nights for those responsible for fire and life safety systems in healthcare occupancy types. Not only can the outcome lead to having to cut employees loose and steep fines, but because these audits results are reported publicly it can also have a negative impact from a public relations standpoint.
The fact is only 20% of facilities pass annually with zero discrepancies. To help facility management and maintenance better prepare for audits the CMS release a list of the top ten life safety discrepancies by the percentage of facilities cited. Keeping these in mind when preparing for an audit could help you become the one in five to pass your next audit rather than the exception.
A recent study by the NFPA uncovered some eye-opening statistics. In 2012, fire departments in the United States reported responding to over 2,238,000 false alarms. The majority, 46.6%, were unintentional calls, while 31.9% were attributed to system malfunctions. This represents a serious strain on emergency responders who not only risk their own safety trying to respond quickly, but it could also divert them from real emergencies.
With hundreds of different devices and systems on the market, it is imperative for fire and life safety professionals to be knowledgeable about the codes and standards that apply locally in order to ensure code-compliant inspections and testing.
Such knowledge, in turn, needs to be as ongoing and evolving as the dynamic code development process itself. Revisions to codes and standards typically take place every three to five years. With these periodic revisions, significant changes that affect inspection, testing and maintenance are often applied as a result of the vitally important, interactive relationship among manufacturers, researchers, engineers and other experts in the fire and life safety industry.