Figures from the National Fire Protection Association show that each year, some 85,000 fires occur in the workplace, causing an annual average of 89 deaths to employees and customers and a massive $1.856 billion in direct property damage. And, that does not consider indirect costs.
Like preparing a new product for sale or closing the book on a quarter, preventing a fire - or safely containing one - takes planning. Steps include easily accessible fire extinguishers, proper housekeeping and maintenance, broadly communicated, and practiced, evacuation plans, equipment shutdown, notification of authorities, and familiarity with the type of items that might burn and release toxins. Help your employees understand their role in a fire emergency by selecting from among the following Bestselling fire safety training videos.
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The Basics of Fire Extinguisher Training and Requirements
If fire extinguishers are available for employee use, it is the employer's responsibility to educate employees on the principles and practices of using a fire extinguisher and the hazards associated with fighting small or developing fires [29 CFR 1910.157(g)(1)].
This education must be provided annually and when a new employee is first hired [29 CFR 1910.157(g)(2)]. Employees who have been designated to use fire extinguishers as part of the emergency action plan, must be trained on how to use the fire extinguishers appropriately in the workplace [29 CFR 1910.157(g)(3)].
This training is a specialized form of education that focuses on developing or improving skills and it must be provided annually and when employees are first assigned these duties [29 CFR 1910.157(g)(4)]. (source: OSHA)
Extinguisher Placement and Spacing
Portable fire extinguishers can be an effective early response to a developing fire, if they are installed and used properly. In this section, we are going to review general information about the placement and spacing of portable fire extinguishers. If employees use portable fire extinguishers to fight small fires, they must be installed in all areas of the workplace. To ensure each area is protected properly, OSHA recommends you ask yourself the following questions:
- Is the extinguisher readily accessible in the event of a fire?
- Is the extinguisher fully charged and working properly?
Where extinguishers are provided but are not intended for employee use and the employer has an emergency action plan and a fire prevention plan that meet the requirements of 29 CFR 1910.38, then only the requirements of the inspection, maintenance and testing and hydrostatic testing sections apply [29 CFR 1910.157(a)]. To comply with OSHA requirements, consider the following:
- General requirements
- Selection and distribution
- Inspection, maintenance and testing
- Hydrostatic testing
- Training and education
Using a Fire Extinguisher (Source: OSHA)
The following steps should be followed when responding to incipient stage fire:
- Sound the fire alarm and call the fire department, if appropriate.
- Identify a safe evacuation path before approaching the fire. Do not allow the fire, heat, or smoke to come between you and your evacuation path.
- Select the appropriate type of fire extinguisher.
- Discharge the extinguisher within its effective range using the P.A.S.S. technique (pull, aim, squeeze, sweep).
- Back away from an extinguished fire in case it flames up again.
- Evacuate immediately if the extinguisher is empty and the fire is not out.
- Evacuate immediately if the fire progresses beyond the incipient stage.
Most fire extinguishers operate using the following P.A.S.S. technique:
- PULL... Pull the pin. This will also break the tamper seal.
- AIM... Aim low, pointing the extinguisher nozzle (or its horn or hose) at the base of the fire. Note: Do not touch the plastic discharge horn on CO2 extinguishers, it gets very cold and may damage skin.
- SQUEEZE... Squeeze the handle to release the extinguishing agent.
- SWEEP... Sweep from side to side at the base of the fire until it appears to be out. Watch the area. If the fire re-ignites, repeat steps 2 - 4.
If you have the slightest doubt about your ability to fight a fire....EVACUATE IMMEDIATELY!