From: Bruce Van Scoy <bvanscoy**At_Symbol_Here**TWC.COM>
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] Fire extinguisher use in chem labs by instructors
Date: Fri, 4 Dec 2015 17:44:02 -0500
Reply-To: DCHAS-L <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**MED.CORNELL.EDU>
Message-ID: 000601d12ee5$45f1fb90$d1d5f2b0$**At_Symbol_Here**
In-Reply-To <99080534A99D89479A51A4EB6489672E05FB0461**At_Symbol_Here**>


You’ve already received some great answers from Rob (ILPI) and Monona, that I would like to add to. 

First, forget classroom training alone.  For many years I have utilized the local fire departments to perform hands-on, performance based training.  In my current situation we have office areas surrounding laboratory spaces, therefore I have all employees required to be trained.  I tried the simulators once, reverting to the old fashioned method of using a fire pan.  Yes, we do have to dispose of the waste as a flammable hazardous waste, which is a minimal cost and we save the extinguishers that have expired during the year and use them for training.  Over the years, I have had one workplace fire that I believe the training resulted in saving three lives. 

Secondly, I have also had employees, and my wife, who have been able to safely respond to minor fires before they could become a loss of life situation, which in my wife’s case would have involved our children.  I have learned that people do remember the training – if the training was hands-on and performance based, instead of simply classroom.  At the end of the day, we all want the same thing – to be able to send employees home in the same condition that they came to work, if not better trained.  (They won’t receive the training elsewhere and we need them back tomorrow!) 

Finally, the only criticism that I’ve encountered was from a previous employer’s director who complained about the amount of employee time required (20 minutes for a class of 15) that included a brief lecture from the fireman with everyone putting out a fire.  I learned that scheduling by departments was a bad idea, the employees all wanted to stick around and see how quickly their peers could put out the fire and were cheering them on! 

Just my opinion/experience,



From: DCHAS-L Discussion List [mailto:dchas-l**At_Symbol_Here**] On Behalf Of Michael D Ahler
Sent: Friday, December 4, 2015 12:46 AM
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] Fire extinguisher use in chem labs by instructors


Meg, et. al.


I don't know where or whether it is in any regulatory citation, but many years ago I had a local fire Captain tell how his department treats fire extinguishers installed in a workplace.

I got the distinct impression that his was a minority opinion rather than anything required in writing.


His answer to your question (why are they there?):   The fire extinguishers are there for use by the fire fighters that arrive on the scene and find a "fightable" fire in progress in the room.  This is one of the reasons the extinguishers are customarily installed next to or near an entrance/exit door.   His position was that no regular employee should choose to fight a fire but evacuate instead.  


NFPA (who doesn't rule on employee/employer behavior) does provide instruction and training advice for anyone wishing/needing to use an extinguisher.   

OSHA (who does rule on employee/employer behavior) has apparently given you the option of not training users of (and not using) extinguishers placed in your buildings.

The UFC/UBC does require that the extinguishers be there.  

I can appreciate your quandary.


I am entertained by your choice of the word "behoove".  I suspect you were thinking "required" without writing it down. There is at least an ethical answer and a legal answer to your questions: (Are we obligated by law to train employees in the use of fire extinguishers and are they then required by law to use them when the need arises?)


Good Samaritan laws and Duty to Rescue laws vary a little from state to state (and vary wildly around the world).


You need to talk to a local attorney.  A Wisconsin attorney will have the best advice about what the requirements are in Wisconsin.  If Western Technical College has an in-house counsel, that's where you should start.  If not, I speculate that the College has a local attorney on speed dial for those occasions when legal advice is needed.


Before I retired from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, (I had already been teaching evening chemistry classes at Hancock for for a while) I was the CHO, working for EH&S, which was part of Risk Management at that time.  Questions of liability, risk, loss prevention, disaster preparedness and emergency response were common topics in our office at the time.


Thanks for listening.


Michael Ahler

Part-Time Faculty Member

LPS (Chemistry)

Allan Hancock College

From: DCHAS-L Discussion List [dchas-l**At_Symbol_Here**] on behalf of Osterby, Meg [OsterbyM**At_Symbol_Here**WESTERNTC.EDU]
Sent: Thursday, December 03, 2015 4:53 PM
Subject: [DCHAS-L] Fire extinguisher use in chem labs by instructors


Hello all,


I am part of our college’s safety committee and there has been a discussion ongoing in the committee about OSHA’s requirements for availability and use of fire extinguishers in the workplace.  Some of the information we have found suggests that the option to not provide extinguishers, or train anyone to use them, is okay by OSHA.  However, in LaCrosse, the local fire codes require extinguishers to be present.  So the question is, if they are present, does it behoove us to train lab instructors (shop instructors, cooking instructors, etc.) in their use, and if we do, are those persons with the training required to use the extinguisher, if appropriate?  And, since we have to have the extinguishers, but one of the OSHA options we’ve been told is to train no-one and forbid their use, would that apply to chem teaching labs?  And if it does, why are they there?  I understand that as a chemical professional it is my duty to be knowledgeable and trained in the appropriate safety procedures for any chemical we use, but is that a legal requirement, and if it is, does it need to be in the person’s job description?  And if so, how would that relate to fire extinguisher use?  If the college requires me to use one, does it need to put that in my job description?  The OSHA rule seems to make it clear that if they require that, they have to provide regular training, but beyond that, I’m lost.


Does anyone know how this works, and what the law requires our college to do?  We have been looking at a PP document we found on-line, which I’ve summarized the pertinent info from into a Word document, that I’d be happy to forward off the list-serve.  Frankly we are really confused.  Any help would be appreciated.


Thanks much,



Meg Osterby

Lead Chemistry Instructor

Western Technical College

400 7th St. N.

LaCrosse, WI 54601




"It's  better to be careful 100 times, than to be killed once." 

                                                    Mark Twain


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