Since most printing operations are equipped with portable fire extinguishers, it is important to understand how OSHA’s regulations apply to their use and operation. OSHA’s rules prohibit workers from using fire extinguishers unless they have received training in their proper use, and the training has to be performed on an annual basis. According to 29 CFR 1910.157(g)(2), “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.” To safely and effectively use portable fire extinguishers, employees must be trained to recognize fires that can be controlled with portable extinguishers, correctly operate the portable fire extinguisher, and use effective firefighting techniques.
One way to avoid the annual training requirement is to implement a fire prevention plan, as well as prepare a formal policy within an emergency action plan which would explicitly state that no employee is required or expected to use a fire extinguisher, and in the event of a fire, a total evacuation of all employees will occur. Likewise, if you do expect employees to use fire extinguishers, a formal policy needs to be established making it clear who is qualified to use fire extinguishers as well as the circumstances when fire extinguishers can and should be used.