The fire extinguisher is one of the most important equipment on the jobsite in case of a fightable fire.
It is surprising when I perform a jobsite inspection how many employers and employees are unaware what must be done when it comes to the requirements, inspection and training. When it is explained to them that this is a regulatory requirement it is as if this is a new revelation.
The California Occupational Safety and Health Administration (CalOSHA) has regulations regarding the use and care of fire extinguishers. The general requirements are as follows as outlined by CalOSHA:
“(c) General Requirements.
(1) The employer shall provide portable fire extinguishers and shall mount, locate and identify them so that they are readily accessible to employees without subjecting the employees to possible injury.
(2) Only approved portable fire extinguishers shall be used to meet the requirements of this section.
(3) The employer shall not provide or make available in the workplace portable fire extinguishers using carbon tetrachloride or chlorobromomethane extinguishing agents.
(4) The employer shall assure that portable fire extinguishers are maintained in a fully charged and operable condition and kept in their designated places at all times except during use.
(5) The employer shall permanently remove from service by January 1, 1982, all soldered or riveted shell self-generating soda acid or self-generating foam or gas cartridge water type portable fire extinguishers which are operated by inverting the extinguisher to rupture the cartridge or to initiate an uncontrollable pressure generating chemical reaction to expel the agent.
(d) Selection and Distribution.
(1) Where portable fire extinguishers are provided for employee use, they shall be selected and distributed based on the classes of anticipated work place fires and on the size and degree of hazard which would affect their use.
(2) The employer shall distribute portable fire extinguishers for use by employees on Class A fires so that the travel distance for employees to any extinguisher is 75 feet (22.9m) or less.
(3) The employer may use uniformly spaced standpipe systems or hose stations connected to a sprinkler system installed for emergency use by employees instead of Class A portable fire extinguishers, provided that such systems meet the respective requirements of Articles 158 or 159, that they provide total coverage of the area to be protected, and that employees are trained at least annually in their use.
(4) The employer shall distribute portable fire extinguishers for use by employees on Class B fires so that the travel distance from the Class B hazard area to any extinguisher is 50 feet (15.2m) or less.
(5) The employer shall distribute portable fire extinguishers used for Class C hazards on the basis of the appropriate pattern for the existing Class A or Class B hazards.
(6) The employer shall distribute portable fire extinguishers or other containers of Class D extinguishing agent for use by employees so that the travel distance from the combustible metal working area to any extinguishing agent is 75 feet (22.9m) or less. Portable fire extinguishers for Class D hazards are required in those combustible metal working areas where combustible metal powders, flakes, shavings, or similarly sized products are generated a least once every two weeks.
(e) Inspection, Maintenance and Testing.
(1) The employer shall be responsible for the inspection, maintenance and testing of all portable fire extinguishers in the workplace.
(2) Portable extinguishers or hose used in lieu thereof under Subsection (d)(3) of this Section shall be visually inspected monthly.
(3) Portable fire extinguishers shall be subjected to an annual maintenance check. Stored pressure extinguishers do not require an internal examination. The employer shall record the annual maintenance date and retain this record for one year after the last entry or the life of the shell, whichever is less. The record shall be available to the Chief upon request.
(g) Training and Education.
(1) Where the employer has provided portable fire extinguishers for employee use in the workplace, the employer shall also provide an educational program to familiarize employees with the general principles of fire extinguisher use and the hazards involved with incipient stage fire fighting.
(2) The employer shall provide the education required in subsection (g)(1) of this Section upon initial employment and at least annually thereafter.
(3) The employer shall provide employees who have been designated to use fire-fighting equipment as part of an emergency action plan with training in the use of the appropriate equipment.
(4) The employer shall provide the training required in subsection (g)(3) of this Section upon initial assignment to the designated group of employees and at least annually thereafter.”
The foregoing are General Requirements. Please review the CalOSHA – Subchapter 7. General Industry Safety Orders – Group 27. Fire Protection – Article 157. Portable Fire Extinguishers – §6151. Portable Fire Extinguishers for more information.
Yes, the fire extinguisher is one of the most important equipment on the jobsite in case of a fire. By following the requirements in caring for your fire extinguisher, you will be able to answer the question knowing the correct answer, How Safe Is Your Fire Extinguisher?
CalOSHA – Subchapter 7. General Industry Safety Orders – Group 27. Fire Protection – Article 157. Portable Fire Extinguishers – §6151. Portable Fire Extinguishers.
Copyrighted by Matthew J. Key from his forthcoming book “The Safety Corner”.