Who is responsible for using a fire extinguisher?
The legal requirements for fire extinguishers in the workplace (as outlined by the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005) dictate that every employer, owner or occupier of a business has legal responsibility for ensuring the fire safety of the people in the building. In other words, they are the “responsible person”. However, what happens if a fire occurs when the responsible person is not on the premises? Who is responsible for using the fire extinguisher and stopping the fire then? Let’s find out!
One of the responsibilities of a responsible person is to ensure that the staff receive adequate fire safety training on a regular basis. This training should include how to use a fire extinguisher so that in the event of a fire, they are prepared to take action if needed. In that aspect, the responsible person may not be responsible for personally extinguishing the fire but they are required to give their employees the skills, knowledge and tools to do it.
In theory, as the law doesn’t explicitly state whose responsibility it is to use the fire extinguisher, as long as they know how to and the situation permits, anyone could do it. That being said, people are usually advised to evacuate the building as quickly as possible and leave the fire fighting to the local fire services.
If need be, the appointed fire warden will be best equipped to take charge of the fire extinguisher usage in an emergency situation. How to use a fire extinguisher is a topic covered as part of the mandatory fire marshal training, so they will have the required knowledge to do it correctly.
When to use a fire extinguisher in the workplace
First of all, as we said, no one in the office is responsible for using the fire extinguisher and everyone is encouraged to evacuate a burning building, leaving the firefighters to do their job. This is the safest option for everyone. However, there are situations when you can use the fire extinguisher in the workplace. You can attempt to extinguish the fire if all of the following conditions are met:
- There isn’t too much smoke in the room
- The fire is relatively small and appears to be contained
- The room isn’t dangerously hot (to the point where you could pass out from the heat)
- Everyone else has been evacuated
- The evacuation route is clear and unobstructed, so you can leave too
If any of the above points aren’t met, you should not attempt to use the fire extinguisher even if you know how to do it, as you could be putting yourself at risk.
4 steps to follow when using a fire extinguisher
The fire equipment available to people who are not firefighters should be easy to access and easy to use. This is why using a fire extinguisher at work only takes four steps:
- Point the nozzle away from yourself and pull the safety pin
- Aim towards the base of the fire, not the top of the flames
- Squeeze the lever slowly and calmly
- Move the nozzle from side to side in a smooth, sweeping motion
Having a fire extinguisher is a legal requirement, so you should find a fire extinguisher near the fire exit or the fire alarm call point on your floor. The fire risk assessment should have determined the type of fire risk you could be exposed to, so ideally, the right type of fire extinguisher should be provided.
However, before you decide to use the fire extinguisher, it’s important to be aware of what types of fire extinguishers are used against what type of fire. If you use the wrong fire extinguisher it could make the fire worse and it could cause massive flames to burst out, hurting you in the process. So, if you are not sure, just leave the building and wait at the assembly point for the fire services to arrive.
10 Facts about fire extinguishers in the workplace
Before we finish off this article, here are 10 more things you should know about fire extinguishers in the workplace:
- There must be at least two Class A fire extinguishers on every floor of the building
- A fire extinguisher must be no more than 30 metres from any level of the building
- Fire extinguishers should be properly mounted on the wall using special stands or cabinets
- Fire extinguishers must be serviced by a fire safety specialist annually
- Fire extinguishers must be recharged after every use
- The fire warden must do a visual inspection of the fire extinguishers daily
- Rechargeable fire extinguishers expire and must be recharged every 6 years
- Non-rechargeable fire extinguishers expire after 10-12 years and must be replaced
- Fire extinguishers can only extinguish the specific types of fires they ate suitable for
- Fire extinguishers must be commissioned by an expert before put to use
Hopefully, having read this article on who is responsible for using a fire extinguisher in the workplace, you feel more confident about handling fire emergencies at work. Need to find a new fire extinguisher? You can buy a fire extinguisher here!