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Do I Need to Provide Fire Extinguisher Training?

Posted on: January 22, 2014

One question many business owners have is whether OSHA standards require that they provide hands-on fire extinguisher training. Usually people ask this question looking for a YES or NO answer, but unfortunately, the best answer is “It depends.”

OSHA Fire Extinguisher Training Requirements

Official OSHA guidelines state the following:

“Where the employer has provided portable fire extinguishers for employee use in the workplace, the employer shall also provide an educational program to familiarize employees with the general principles of fire extinguisher use and the hazards involved with incipient stage fire-fighting.”

Later on, they define “Education” as:

“The process of imparting knowledge or skill through systematic instruction. It does not require formal classroom instruction.”

What this means is that at a minimum, you must provide your employees with instruction about the general principles of fire extinguisher use and the hazards of early stage fires. No hands-on training is required, and many business owners choose to fulfill these educational requirements by using toolbox talks, safety videos, online classes, and even referring employees to our blog post on how to use a fire extinguisher.

That said, some employers designate some (or all) employees to use portable fire extinguishers. In these cases:

“The employer shall provide employees who have been designated to use fire-fighting equipment as part of an emergency action plan with training in the use of the appropriate equipment.”

In this case, “Training” means:

“The process of making proficient through instruction and hands-on practice in the operation of equipment, including respiratory protection equipment, that is expected to be used and in the performance of assigned duties.”

This means that, at a minimum, you should allow your employees the opportunity to discharge the type of fire extinguisher that they’ll be using. You do not need to use a live fire as part of this session. In fact, starting live fires on your own, even under controlled conditions, can be extremely dangerous. Confires provides fire extinguisher training to businesses throughout New Jersey, so if you do decide you want to train with fire extinguishers on a live fire, call us.

Finally, if you write in your business’ emergency action plan and fire prevention plan that your employees are to immediately evacuate the building without using a fire extinguisher, neither training nor education is required. This assumes, of course, that no situation exists that specifically mandates someone be designated to use a fire extinguisher.

To recap:

  • You must provide education for all employees on how to use portable fire extinguishers
  • You must provide training for all designated workers
  • You do not need to provide training for employees specifically excluded in your emergency action plan

If you’re looking for a fire protection company to provide fire extinguisher training or other fire extinguisher services in New Jersey, Delaware, or Philadelphia, call Confires today.

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