Fire Extinguisher Training

Fire extinguisher training… Is it required in healthcare organizations? And what level of training is required? Is hands-on training required where the discharge of the extinguisher is acheived? Or is a simple training module from a computer based learning program all that is required? Well, the answers to those questions depend on which authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) is asked.

Starting with the Joint Commission, they have no standards that specifically state the healthcare organization needs to conduct fire extinguisher training. But that does not mean that they do not require some sort of extinguihser training for the staff. EC.03.01.01, EP 2, says (in part): “The actions required in the event of an environment of care incident can be demonstrated or described by staff.” If a surveyor interviews your staff and concludes that a sampling (how many are a sampling…? 2 or more) cannot describe or demonstrate the proper use of a portable fire extinguihser, then you can expect a finding under this standard.

Likewise, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services(CMS) has very similar language under standard 482.41(b)(7), which says: “The hospital must have written fire control plans that contain provisions for prompt reporting of fire; extinguishing fires; protection of patients, personnel and guests; evacuation; and cooperation with fire fighting authorities.” The survey procedures guideline for this standard requires the inspector to interview staff throughout the facility to verify their knowledge of their responsibilities during a fire. If a staff member cannot adequately describe the proper procedure to operate a fire extinguisher, then that may lead to a finding. This is nearly the same as the Joint Commission standard and process to determine compliance.

OSHA has something to say about fire extinguisher training as well: Section 1910.157(g)(1) says: “Where the employer has provided portabkle fire extinguishers for employee use in the workplace, the employeer shall also provide an educational program to familiarize employees with the general principals of fire extinguisher use and the hazards involved with incipient stage fire fighting.”

While the above AHJs do not require hands-on training, I am aware of at least one other AHJ that does: The College of American Pathologists (CAP) who accredits laboratories, apparaently has a standard whereby all laboratory staff members have to have annual hands-on fire extinguisher training. I am not an expert in CAP standards, but I have been told that this standard does exist in their manual by more than one individual.

Training can be accomplished by a wide range of methods: From the simple and easy-to-adminsiter computer-based learning modules to the more extensive and impressive fires set in the back lot where staff are encouraged to grab an extinguisher and attempt to extinguish the fire. There are also power-point presentations on extinguisher use and safety, along with computer videos where an extinguisher adapted with a laser is pointed at the screen to simulate the use of an extinguisher. Whatever the process you decide to use, you need to customize your training sessions to meet your needs, expectations and resources. There are advantages and disadvantages to these different types of training, and not the least to consider is cost and time required to implement the training. The computer-based learning module is cost affordable and easy to adminster, but it is proven to be the least effective way for people to learn. Hands-on training is usually the most effective way people learn, but getting everyone to the training can be costly and difficult.

If you are interested in a training video for fire extinguisher safety, I learned of an independent company called Compliance and Safety, based out of Middletown, Delaware. They are one of the top suppliers for safety training videos on the market today. While I do not endorse individual products or services, I do find their website informative on a variety of methods for fire extinguisher training. Check then out at: