A Safety Program in Facility Management

Life, Health, Safety (LHS) refers to all of the facility’s systems that preserve and protect the life, health, and safety of the occupants and facilities you manage.  Your scope in LHS as a facility manager can vary greatly.  If you have a safety department in your organization, your involvement might be limited to consultation on building systems.  Other FMs will be directly responsible for all safety practices and serve on or lead their organization’s safety committee.  Health care facility managers have their own certification through the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) called the Certified Life Safety Specialist (CLSS-HC) for Health Care Facility Managers. This article is Part I in a three-part series of creating a safety program within facility management.  So, let’s get started.

Building systems that have a major impact on LHS can include the following:

  • Ingress/egress of the facility
  • Emergency lighting
  • Fire alarms
  • Fire suppression
  • Fire extinguishers
  • Automated external defibrillator (AED) devices
  • Exhaust fans
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • HAZMAT storage and disposal
  • Compressed gas
  • Fall protection
  • Security systems (cameras, access control, etc.)

This list is not all-inclusive, but gives a good idea of what systems to consider when looking at LHS.  Many safety systems fall underneath the umbrella of security.

Where to Begin?

A great place to start with LHS is the NFPA 101: Life Safety Code®.  This is a standard that covers strategies to protect people based on building construction, protection, and occupancy features that minimize the effects of fire and related hazards.[1]  The NFPA 101 is also beneficial because it covers both new and existing structures.  It addresses provisions for all types of occupancies, with requirements for egress, features of fire protection, sprinkler systems, alarms, emergency lighting, smoke barriers, and special hazard protection.[2]

The next resource to look at with respect to LHS is OSHA.  OSHA was created by the Occupational Safety and Health Act, signed by President Richard Nixon on December 29, 1970.  The goal of the act is to ensure private and public employers provide their employees with a safe and healthful environment.  OSHA has spelled out many specific safety requirements in a list of standards that you can find at https://www.osha.gov/law-regs.html.  Examples of specific standards are head protection, foot protection, PPE, fall protection, etc.  In addition to all of the OSHA standards, employers must comply with the General Duty Clause of the OSH Act, which requires employers to keep their workplace free of serious recognized hazards.[3] The General Duty Clause is essentially a catch-all that is used in inspections where a hazard is present, but not specifically covered under other OSHA standards.

Any FMs would also benefit from attending an OSHA training course.  These are offered as 10-hour and 30-hour courses in both construction and general industry.  The 10-hour courses are designed for more of an entry-level employee with the 30-hour courses geared more toward supervisors with a role in safety.  I have never done the 10-hour course, but the 30-hour course will cover in detail OSHA, their inspection process, regulations, citations and penalties, establishing a safety program, and specific topics in depth such as LOTO (lock-out, tag-out), fall protection, confined spaces, noise exposure, HAZMAT, bloodborne pathogens, etc.

For hard services maintenance on LHS systems, code will dictate a lot of what we do as FMs.  Fire systems must be inspected and tagged on a routine basis.  AEDs have manufacturer specific expiration dates for pads and batteries must be checked routinely.  Ingress/egress requirements are dictated by code.  The list goes on and on.  The two resources above will point you in the right direction with respect to LHS and your systems.  From there, identify what you have and how they will be maintained as part of your overall FM strategy.

Additionally, organizations must have written plans specific to their facilities.  Think of these as general administrative controls covering the entire organization.  These plans include an emergency action plan, hazard communication, LOTO, PPE, bloodborne pathogens, use of respirators, confined space entry, etc.  If you don’t already have a Safety Manual created in your organization and don’t know where to start, I encourage you to download My Free Safety Manual.  It took me quite a bit of time to create and can be customized to your facilities fairly simply.

In Summary

This article has been the first of a three-part series on safety within facilities management and will get you pointed in the right direction. Maintaining and executing a safety program is essential in facilities, whether that falls to the responsibility of the FM or not.  In the next article, we will explore what a Job Hazard Assessment (JHA) is, what it looks like, and how to mitigate hazards within your safety program.  Learning how to set up a program from scratch can be confusing, but the JHA is a great place to start by identifying all of the hazards that are present and then figuring ways to mitigate them.

Thanks so much for reading!  As always, please feel free to leave any comments.  If you have a question, I’d be happy to answer it.  Just shoot me an email at dan@learningfm.com.

[1] “NFPA 101: Life Safety Code®” NFPA. 2015. Accessed March 2, 2017. http://www.nfpa.org/codes-and-standards/all-codes-and-standards/list-of-codes-and-standards?mode=code&code=101.

[2] Ibid.

[3] “OSHA Law & Regulations.” United States Department of Labor. Accessed March 2, 2017. https://www.osha.gov/law-regs.html.

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