These OSHA Fire Extinguisher standards will help you ensure employee safety!

Every employer should value the health and lives of their workers as an absolute priority. Depending on the industry, the workplace might bring various hazards to employees. While some occupations are directly related to dangerous settings the prevailing majority of jobs happen in a relatively safe environment. However, there is one menace that threatens everyone regardless of their occupation; its name is fire. Causes for ignition are so versatile that fire can start almost on any surface or material and – if it’s not treated right – it can grow into a disaster. Therefore, it’s vital to supply your workplace with proper fire safety tools.

There are many different tools that ensure fire safety at the workplace such as fire alarms, fire suppression systems, evacuation plans, etc. Yet the most basic one is the fire extinguisher. Even though fire extinguishers seem pretty simple as a tool there are some strict regulations and requirements produced by The Occupational Safety and Health Administration of the United States (OSHA).

fire extinguisher training

OSHA Requirements For Fire Extinguishers Supply

US law and OSHA don’t require fire extinguishers as a mandatory tool for fire safety at every type of workplace. Nonetheless, wise employers don’t neglect these handy tools and introduce them to the workplace for better safety. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has specific requirements for fire extinguishers as a part of emergency standards regulation.

Regarding these standards, if an employer decided to supply fire extinguishers, they have to be easily reachable at a short distance for employees to use. Simply put, there isn’t a standard to a number of extinguishers on-site, and yet a fire extinguisher should be visible and not far from employees’ reach or potential hazards.

Best Practices in Workplace Safety Measures

Alternatively, if an employer foresees potential hazards in the work environment, they should implement an evacuation plan. An evacuation plan should be executed if a fire alarm is triggered and such a plan has to meet these requirements.

OSHA Requirements For Fire Extinguisher Contents

For the most part, OSHA offers similar requirements for fire extinguishers as NFPA or Fire Marshals do. An employer should select extinguishers regarding the nature of possible hazards: either it’s A, B, C, D, or K class threats. Besides, these fire extinguishers should be approved for usage around the US. At the same time, an employer has to make sure that their fire extinguishers contain no tetrachloride or chlorobromomethane extinguishing agents. These agents are highly dangerous for users’ health since they are toxic and can lead to asphyxia or other respiratory problems, especially if used in closed or confined spaces.

OSHA Requirements For The Placement Of Fire Extinguishers

The generalization that fire extinguishers have to be easily reachable and not cause injuries to employees who would want to reach them in scrutiny sounds self-explanatory. However, it leaves some questions when it comes to implementation. Thus, OSHA describes specific numbers for extinguisher placement depending on the class of potential hazard:

  • Class A hazards. Fire extinguishers should be at less than 75ft (22.9m) of employee’s travel distance in order to respond to class A hazard.
  • Class B hazards. Fire extinguishers need to be distributed at a maximum range of 50ft (15.2m) of worker’s access to fight class B fires.
  • Class C hazards. To fight class C fires, you can place fire extinguishers according to the rules of distribution for either class A or B extinguishers.
  • Class D hazards. Travel distance to a Class D fire extinguisher to fight burning metal should be a maximum of 75ft (22.9m).
  • Class K hazards. Class K fire extinguisher should be stored no further than 30ft (9.1m) from cooking surfaces or media.

OSHA Requirements To Mounting And Marking Of Fire Extinguishers

Besides distribution, fire extinguishers should be properly contained and marked. Thus, a fire extinguisher should be mounted on brackets or in wall cabinets with a carrying handle placed 3-1/2 to 5 feet above the floor. When it comes to large extinguishers, you should mount them closer to the floor (3 feet) with a proper handle, while wheeled fire extinguishers have to be stored in their cart and require no additional installation. While OSHA only states that fire extinguishers should be identified, there is a good rule of thumb to follow and make sure your extinguishers aren’t overlooked in case of emergency. Place a big visible sign over the extinguisher so people could recognize it from up close and from the distance. If you store extinguishers in a frame it’s better to paint it red, yellow, or another distinctive and visible color. Always watch that paint on the extinguisher’s shell contrasts with the wall behind it.

OSHA Requirements To The Handling Of Fire Extinguishers

OSHA dictates that employees should be trained on how to handle and use a fire extinguisher. The responsibility of such education lies on the employer’s shoulders. However, not every worker should undergo this kind of training so an employer can choose a team member to be responsible for fire fighting in case of an emergency. The chosen people have to not just take a complete training course once but participate in it annually to refresh their knowledge. Besides that, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has additional requirements for proper handling of fire extinguishers which includes servicing and maintenance.

Usually, business owners have to follow a lot of different regulations created by various agencies, administrations, and law enforcement. In the majority of cases, these requirements seem an unnecessary fuss only designed to give you a headache. However, when it comes to fire safety, following these regulations means saving lives and property. Taking them into account will help create a safer environment in which the burden of responsibility for your workers’ health will become much easier.

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Article Author Details

Michelle Jones