The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that employers who provide portable fire extinguishers in the workplace train employees to use them. When used properly, portable fire extinguishers can save lives and property by putting out a small fire or containing one until the fire department arrives.
All employees should be provided training on the use of portable fire extinguishers. If there’s a fire, employees should follow their company’s fire emergency plan. Most employees will evacuate. Trained and designated employees will evaluate the fire scene and, if the fire is small and conditions are safe, fight the fire using a portable fire extinguisher. If the fire is large or conditions are unsafe, these employees should evacuate too.
Before Fighting a Fire in the Workplace
Be sure an alarm has been sounded, people are leaving the building, and the fire department is being notified. Be sure you know how to operate your fire extinguisher and right way to fight a fire. Be sure you have an unobstructed escape route in case you can’t put out the fire. Know what’s burning and be sure your extinguisher is capable of fighting that kind of fire. Consider the danger posed by hazardous or highly flammable materials near the fire area.
Using an Extinguisher: PASS
Keep your back to an exit and , depending on the size of your extinguisher, begin by standing 6 to 8 feet away from the fire. Follow the four-step PASS procedure. If the fire does not begin to go out immediately, leave the area at once.
||Pull the pin. This unlocks the operating lever and allows you to discharge the extinguisher. Some extinguishers may have other lever-release mechanism.
||Aim low. Point the extinguisher hose (or nozzle) at the base of the fire.
||Squeeze the lever above the handle. This discharges the extinguishing agent. Releasing the lever will stop the discharge.
||Sweep from side to side. Moving carefully toward the fire, keep the extinguisher aimed at the base of the fire and sweep back and forth until the flames appear to be out. Watch the fire area. If the fire re-ignites, repeat the process. Have the fire department inspect the fire site, even if you think you’ve extinguished the fire.
WARNING! Fire extinguishers discharge faster than people think, many within 8 to 10 seconds.
In the workplace, place fire extinguishers within easy reach, so employees can access them quickly while the fire is still small. Mount them near doors so anyone using them will have a safe escape route. NFPA 10 provides selection criteria.
The Proper Extinguishers
Fire extinguishers are tested by independent testing laboratories and are labeled for the type of fire that they are intended to be used with.
Class of Fires
There are four classes of fires. Extinguishers are labeled, using standard letters and symbols or both for the classes of fires on which they can be used. A red slash through any of the symbols tells you the extinguisher cannot be used on that class of fire. A missing symbol tells you only that the extinguisher has not been tested for that class of fire but may be used if an extinguisher labeled for that class of fire is not available.