Fires are the most common type of emergency for most companies, and many fires start out small enough to be put out with a portable fire extinguisher. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that all employees need to know how to use a fire extinguisher. OSHA says that companies have three basic choices for employees if a fire breaks out:
- All employees must immediately evacuate the building when they hear a fire alarm, or
- Certain designated and trained employees are authorized to fight fires with portable extinguishers, while all others are required to evacuate immediately, or
- All employees are authorized to fight fires with portable extinguishers.
Why It Matters…
- According to OSHA, workplace fires kill about 200 and injure about 5,000 persons each year.
- In a typical recent year, there were more than 75,000 workplace fires that caused more than $2 billion worth of damage.
- One of the top 10 most frequently cited OSHA violations
What kind of training is needed?
OSHA’s training requirements are not very specific, but they do call for a program that “familiarizes employees with the general principles of fire extinguisher use” as well as informs them of the hazards of fighting small fires. For companies that designate only certain (rather than all) employees for fire fighting, training should be more in-depth and encompass the use of various kinds of fire-fighting equipment that are appropriate for the workplace. For either type of training, employers must provide it both initially and at least once a year thereafter. (And don’t forget to document the training!)
Here’s a sample policy for portable fire extinguisher use by employees that you can adapt for your workplace:
Who May Use Portable Fire Extinguishers? Portable fire extinguishers may be used only by employees who have completed training in their use. All employees who have not been trained in the proper use of portable fire extinguishers should limit their actions during a fire to activating the fire alarm system and immediately evacuating to safety. (The choices above can also be added to your policy.)
Have a safe day from Sheakley UniComp!