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How Often is Fire Extinguisher Training Required?

June 23, 2022

Fire Extinguisher Instructor and Student

Keeping portable extinguishers in a workplace can prevent disaster – but only if employees are properly trained to use them. If you intend to create a safety plan in your workplace, it’s important that you provide your employees with fire extinguisher training.  But, how often is fire extinguisher training required? Our guide covers OSHA requirements for using portable fire extinguishers, how often you’ll need to train employees, and more. Let’s go.

Do I Have to be Trained to Use a Fire Extinguisher?

OSHA requires employees to be trained to use portable fire extinguishers if they’re kept on the premises. Not all employees need full hands-on training, but at least some employees need to be trained to use fire-fighting equipment if it’s on the premises.

Workplaces are not required to provide portable fire extinguishers. However, a small portable fire extinguisher is useful to keep around – these can be used to fight the fire if it’s small and manageable. Other equipment such as blankets and buckets are generally expected to be kept in the workplace.

Employers also aren’t obliged to create a full action plan for extinguishing a blaze; the priority should be immediate and total evacuation. However, having an action plan for treating small blazes is considered good practice and hands-on training must be provided if you provide fire extinguishers for employee use.

Employees not trained in the general principles of fire extinguisher use should not attempt to use the devices.  Training should include how to use the PASS system when trying to put out a fire, what different types of fire extinguishers there are, and how those extinguishers should be checked and maintained.

Group of Employees Learning how to use a fire extinguisher

Do Workplaces Need an Extinguisher on the Premises by Law?

OSHA does not state that an employer needs provide fire extinguishers for employee use. Correspondingly, OSHA does not require formal classroom instruction if there’s no extinguisher for use in a fire emergency. If employers have provided portable fire extinguishers for use, only designated employees may use them as part of the workplace’s trained fire watch – these employees authorized to respond to a fire alarm signal must be properly trained.

Who Should Use an Extinguisher in Workplace Buildings?

OSHA states that an employer shall have a fire prevention plan and a written fire safety policy. An employer shall be tasked with imparting knowledge about occupational safety upon initial employment. The employer should also provide training in case alarms go off. This includes incipient-stage fire fighting, e.g. smothering it with a blanket, recognizing the type of blaze and how to respond to it.

Training for Regular Employees

Whenever new staff members are hired, an employer shall have a program to familiarize employees with different types of emergency fire conditions. An employer shall provide employee training on how to respond to an early blaze and identify its cause, creating awareness of the hazards involved with incipient-stage fire fighting. For example, employees should know not to throw water on an electrical blaze, should know the different classes of extinguishers on the worksite, and how to use the PASS technique when using a portable fire extinguisher.

Employers shall provide an educational program with systematic instruction on how to deal with a fire area, not necessarily including the use of firefighting equipment. If an employer intends to train employees to fight fires using the portable fire extinguishers provided, appropriate equipment such as fire protection gear should also be available.

Training for Designated Employees

Fires expected to be treated using a portable fire extinguisher should only be approached by someone with fire extinguisher training. OSHA states that an employer shall provide fire extinguisher training if such a device is kept on the premises and an emergency action plan will be in place.

Certain employees trained in fire extinguisher use will understand not only the hazards involved with incipient-stage treatment but also the general principles of fire extinguisher use. These employees should know how to judge whether they can tackle a blaze using the equipment provided or should evacuate with the rest of the staff and wait for the emergency services to arrive.

Which Workplaces Need an Emergency Action Plan?

In addition to the obligation to provide an educational program to familiarize employees with best practices, some workplaces must have available portable fire extinguishers and hands-on training for employees. These workplaces include plants handling hazardous chemicals and workplaces developing extinguishing and detection equipment.

Fire Emergency Sign

Who Needs to Know About an Emergency Action Plan in the Workplace?

All employees should be taught what to do in the case of a blaze upon initial employment. This includes training to use OSHA-approved portable fire extinguishers if this is part of the emergency plan, and other employees should be instructed to immediately evacuate the premises safely.

Part of the educational program to familiarize workers with proper procedures might include a live-fire demonstration to simulate emergency fire conditions or online fire extinguisher courses.

How Often Does OSHA Require Fire Extinguisher Training?

Where an emergency plan will require hands-on training, this should be refreshed annually at a minimum. Employers providing fire extinguisher instruction should ensure that all their educational materials are kept up-to-date and OSHA-compliant or within the guidelines of the NFPA or National Fire Protection Association.

Who Can Train Employees on Fire Extinguisher Use?

The person training employees to use portable fire extinguishers should have access to OSHA-compliant training materials. This might include OSHA-compliant educational videos, which are one of the most affordable training resources and easily available to employers.

How Often Should Portable Fire Extinguishers be Tested?

Guidelines for testing these devices depend on the model and class of extinguisher. Most canisters should be tested either every 5 years or every 12 years by a competent person.

What’s the Best Way to Provide Fire Extinguisher Instruction?

Using educational videos is a great way to ensure that all training is OSHA-compliant and up-to-date and that materials intended for employee use are always available. This is considered preferable to tasking a designated marshal with all training, as the marshal in any workplace tends to have other responsibilities, and teaching every new employee prevention and safety methods can be time-consuming.

Safety videos are also comprehensive – they never forget anything! This includes important information for ensuring your equipment is up-to-date and properly maintained, e.g. that it doesn’t use prohibited chemicals like chlorobromomethane extinguishing agents.

Whether or not you choose to keep firefighting equipment in your workplace, training videos are simply the best way to ensure that your staff knows what to do if the worst should happen. This keeps your employees safe, protects you against fines from OSHA, and can save you thousands of dollars if your staff is trained to use firefighting gear.

FAQ

Who tests portable fire extinguishers at work?

A properly trained individual should test the devices whenever appropriate. The time between tests depends on the chemicals used in the device; it’s generally either every 5 years or every 12 years. It’s important to know the type of device you keep in your workplace and check OSHA’s guidelines to ensure you’re testing it when appropriate. Old and outdated equipment can be a safety hazard and might not combat a blaze effectively.

How many fire safety marshals do I need at work?

There should be at least 1 individual in charge of employee health & safety. This individual should also provide basic training for employees regarding what to do if a blaze breaks out in the workplace. There’s no obligation for employers to have firefighting employees, but employees should know prevention measures and what not to do, e.g. tackling an electrical blaze using a water-based agent.

Summary: Making Sure Your Employees Are Trained

OSHA states that you need to update both basic safety training for employees and more advanced firefighting training annually. The best way to do this is to use OSHA-compliant video instructions.

Videos are extremely cost-effective compared to having a marshal provide in-person instructions. They’re also time-saving, thorough, and help ensure that your workplace is OSHA-compliant at all times.