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Proper Fire Extinguisher Use

Once started, a fire can spread rapidly, causing significant property destruction and severe injuries. The U.S. Fire Administration reports that, on average, 16,000 fire-related injuries occur each year, with losses approaching $15 billion. However, knowing how to use a fire extinguisher on the job can help mitigate fires, prevent injuries and save lives.

In the event of a fire at our workplace, your safety is our first priority. That’s why understanding when and how to use a fire extinguisher is critical. Yet before using any fire extinguisher, it is important to assess the situation. Follow these best practices:

  • Locate your exit path. Always have a plan to evacuate. If you cannot put the fire out, you will need to exit the building safely.
  • Sound the fire alarm. Either identify and point someone out to make the call, or get to safety and call the fire department.
  • Stand away from the fire. Put 6 to 8 feet between you and the flames at all times. Remember to keep your back to the exit.
  • Use the fire extinguisher to put out the fire. Stay calm and follow the steps provided for using a fire extinguisher safely.
  • Keep away from the extinguished fire. Never rush towards the fire once extinguished. Flames can flare up again once put out.

When using a fire extinguisher, remember to pull, aim, squeeze and sweep (PASS). Here’s a breakdown of these steps:

  • Pull—Locate and pull the extinguisher’s pin to break the tamper seal.
  • Aim—With your back to the exit, step back and aim the extinguisher low while pointing the nozzle towards the base of the fire. Never aim at the flames.
  • Squeeze—Squeeze the extinguisher handle. This will release the extinguishing agent.
  • Sweep—Use a sweeping motion, moving side to side, while keeping the extinguisher nozzle aimed at the base of the fire. Continue to do this until the fire goes out.

If the extinguisher is empty and the fire is still not out, evacuate immediately. Your safety is always the most important thing to remember in a fire emergency. If you have any doubts about fighting the fire, get to safety. Consult your supervisor for more information on proper fire extinguisher use in the workplace.