It’s mid-shift, and your workplace is humming with activity. Suddenly, a fire breaks out. It’s relatively small – at least for the moment. Employee safety is your first priority, of course. Ordering an immediate evacuation is the obvious action to take.

Or is it?

What if employees are able to safely put out the fire themselves, thereby minimizing disruption and damage to the workplace? (That’s assuming, of course, that there are working fire extinguishers on hand and that employees have been trained how to use them.)

What is the responsible decision to make?

That depends on several factors, including the availability of equipment, level of training, proximity of a public fire department and the vulnerability of egress routes.

To flee or not to flee

If no employees are authorized to use available portable fire extinguishers – even if they are available - execute a total evacuation of employees from the workplace immediately when alarm sounds.

If some or all employees have been designated to use portable fire extinguishers to fight fires, allow them to do so. Any employees who have not been designated must evacuate workplace immediately when alarm sounds.

Before any of that happens, you will already have:

  • established an emergency action plan
  • established a fire prevention plan and
  • trained employees accordingly

Keep in mind that:

  • Fire extinguishers training must be conducted annually
  • Fire extinguishers in the workplace must be inspected, tested, and maintained

Relevant OSHA requirements:

[29 CFR 1910.157(b)(1)]

[29 CFR 1910.157(b)(2)]