Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Is Hands-on Fire Extinguisher Training Required?

One question I get  asked a lot during mock-OSHA inspections is whether or not the Federal OSHA standards for portable fire extinguishers requires employees to do “hands on” training with extinguishers. And the answer is not as simple as “yes” or “no”; a better answer would be, “it depends”.
First of all, the assumption is that unless you told them otherwise, it is reasonable to assume that any employee at your workplace could pick up a portable fire extinguisher hanging in their work area and try to use it to extinguish a fire should one start.  Therefore, 1910.157(g)(1) states that “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.”  The standard goes on to explain in paragraph (g)(2) that the education required in paragraph (g)(1) “must be provided to employees upon initial employment and at least annually thereafter.”
So does “education” require hands-on training? If you refer to the definitions for Subpart L that appear in 1910.155, you will find that paragraph (c)(14) defines "Education" as . . . . .