Requirements for Employee Alarm Systems [29 CFR 1910.165]

According to 29 CFR 1910.165(b), employee alarm systems must provide a warning for necessary emergency action as called for in the emergency action plan (29 CFR 1910.38), or for reaction time for evacuation of employees from the workplace or the immediate work area, whichever is appropriate.

The employee alarm must be capable of being heard or seen by all employees in the affected areas, taking into account ambient noise or light levels. Tactile devices may be used to alert those employees who would not otherwise be able to recognize the audible or visual alarm.

The employee alarm must be distinctive and recognizable as a signal to evacuate the work area or to perform actions designated under the emergency action plan.

Employees must be informed of the preferred means of reporting emergencies, such as manual pull-box alarms, public address systems, radio, or telephones. Emergency telephone numbers must be posted near telephones, employee notice boards, or other conspicuous locations when telephones serve as a means of reporting emergencies. Where a communication system also serves as the employee alarm system, all emergency messages must have priority over all non-emergency messages.

Procedures must be established and implemented for sounding emergency alarms in the workplace. For employers with 10 or fewer employees in a particular workplace, direct voice communication is an acceptable procedure for sounding the alarm, provided that all employees can hear the alarm. These workplaces do not need to have a back-up system.

To learn more about this and other safety requirements, attend Environmental Resource Center’s OSHA 10-Hour Safety Compliance Course or our Environmental, Health, and Safety Laws and Regulations seminar.