Properly using a fire extinguisher in the workplace

The OSHA states that fire is the most common emergency that a small business should have a comprehensive plan. In this backdrop, fire extinguishers can prove to be an invaluable tool for controlling small fires in the workplace or protecting evacuation routes in the event of a larger one. It clearly states that employers need to thoroughly train their workers on the nuances of using fire extinguishers. In addition, they must educate their staff to accurately assess a situation and determine when evacuation makes for the safest choice possible.  It has clearly stated that employees need to be trained in fire extinguisher use on an annual basis at a minimum.

The simplest of fire extinguisher training is the PASS method:

  • Pull the pin on the extinguisher
  • Aim the hose nozzle low towards the base of the fire
  • Squeeze the handle to release the extinguishing agent
  • Sweep the nozzle from side to side at the base of the flames until it is extinguished

This training is not limited to educating employees on the use of fire extinguishers, employee’s response to fire occupies an equal place too and they should be trained to adhere to the following protocols:

  • If feasible, sound the fire alarm and call the fire department immediately
  • Before taking on the fire, determine an evacuation route safe from the glaring flames, excessive heat and smoke. Do not allow this evacuation route to be blocked.
  • Remember the PASS technique to discharge an extinguisher and get off from the area if the fire flares up again.
  • You need to evacuate without a second thought if the extinguishers are empty and fire is still burning.
  • If the fire grows in proportion beyond what could be safely handled you need to evacuate immediately

You need to remember that fire extinguishers are meant to control small fires. However, if they become too large or the environment is too risky then employees must know when and how to evacuate the area.  If any of the understate condition prevail then workers need to follow the evacuation procedures immediately and should not risk fighting the fire with an extinguisher:

The fire is humungous.  The fire involves flammable solvents that are partially hidden behind a wall or a ceiling and it cannot be reached from a standing position or if it is covering more than 60 square feet in area.

The air is toxic or unsafe to breathe. The levels of smoke make it impossible to extinguish the fire without the aid of any respiratory protection.

The environment is too hot or smoky. Radiated heat is intense making it impossible to approach the fire within the adequate range of using the extinguisher. If it becomes indispensable to crawl on the floor for avoiding heat or smoke. Visibility is poor.

Impairment to evacuation paths. The fire is not confined to heat; smoke or flames are blocking the existing evacuation routes.


Assuming that you have considered it safe and appropriate for you to fight the fire and the fire alarm has been triggered to follow these steps to control it:

Identify the kind of fire

Fire may have a simple meaning on the surface but in reality, there are different kinds of fires which is also called fire classifications. Hence, it is imperative on your part to know the type of fire that you are trying to put out. This information will help you to seek the right type of fire extinguisher.  Depending on the source and the material that fire is burning there are five kinds of fire. These are type A, B, C, D, K.

Get the right kind of fire extinguisher

Once you have identified the type of fire you have to choose the right kind of extinguisher to put out that fire.  So how do you know the types or type of fire that an extinguisher can control? The easiest way out is to look at the label of the fire extinguisher.

Implement the PASS method   

Implement the four-step rule of the PASS method to use the fire extinguisher.  The good thing is that irrespective of the fire extinguishers category it works in the same way.

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