OSHA’s fire extinguisher standard sets specific standards for the use, maintenance, and testing of these devices, as well as requirements for training employees who may be called on to use a fire extinguisher in an emergency. When deciding what role fire extinguishers will play in their facility’s safety plan, employers have four options:
Not provide them at all.
Provide extinguishers, but for use by outside emergency responders, not for use by employees.
Provide extinguishers, for use by certain designated employees only.
Provide extinguishers, for use by any employee.
[29 CFR 1910.157]
When weighing these options, employers should consider the regulatory requirements involved with each choice.
Fire Extinguishers Not Provided
When fire extinguishers aren’t present, the employer must have a written safety policy that requires a complete and total evacuation of the facility upon hearing a fire alarm. [29 CFR 1910.157(b)(1)] This written safety policy is in addition to an emergency action plan [29 CFR 1910.38] and a fire prevention plan [29 CFR 1910.39]. This first option isn’t always available, as several OSHA standards require the presence of fire extinguishers. [See 29 CFR 1910.109 for Explosives & Blasting Agents or 1910.125 for certain dipping and coating operations.] Local fire and building safety codes also often require the presence of fire extinguishers.
Extinguishers for Outside Emergency Responders
When fire extinguishers are provided, but not for employee use, the employer must ensure that the provided extinguishers are regularly inspected, maintained, and tested. [29 CFR 1910.157(e)] This means a monthly visual inspection and annual maintenance that may require hydrostatic testing. [29 CFR 1910.157(f)] The employer is not required to train employees in the use of the fire extinguishers.
Extinguishers for Use by Some or All Employees
Whether the employer directs all employees to use fire extinguishers or only certain employees, they must provide education and training to those employees authorized to use fire extinguishers. [29 CFR 1910.157(g)] The education does not require formal classroom instruction, but the training portion must include hands-on time operating the fire extinguisher(s).
Fire extinguishers can be a vital tool to protect employee safety. Whether or not employers provide these devices in the workplace, businesses must be prepared to meet their responsibilities under OSHA’s fire extinguisher standard. Providing effective training for employees who will use a fire extinguisher is critical to ensure the device is used correctly to prevent injury and property damage.
For employees designated to use portable fire extinguishers in the workplace, Lion Technology offers the convenient, 24/7 Fire Extinguisher Safety Online Course. Designed to satisfy OSHA’s fire protection standard training requirement at 29 CFR 1910.157, the streamlined 45-minute course covers OSHA’s requirements for selecting the right extinguisher, inspecting and maintaining the device, testing it, and using it in an emergency.