This is Part 2 of a 4 part series of articles intended to provide a better understanding and detailing of the OSHA requirements for portable fire extinguishers since a thorough understanding of requirements and expectations is the first step in becoming compliant. The applicable governing regulations and sections are identified where appropriate to allow the reader a ready reference for additional research. While this article does not provide every detail of the applicable requirements it should provide enough information to give the reader a good grasp of the scope and nature of the OSHA requirements for portable fire extinguishers in the workplace. Collectively, the 4 part series of articles will cover:
- General Requirements;
- Exemptions from requirements;
- Selection and distribution requirements;
- Inspection, maintenance and testing requirements; and
- Hydrostatic testing requirements
Part 1 in the series focused on the General Requirements and Exemptions to Requirements. Part 2 in the series will focus on the Selection and Distribution Requirements.
In all cases, the requirements detailed in each part of the series of articles will only apply to the placement, use, maintenance, and testing of portable fire extinguishers provided in a workplace intended for the use of employees.
The requirements detailed in the articles do not apply to fire extinguishers provided for employee use on the outside of workplace buildings or structures.
In those cases where fire extinguishers are provided but are not intended for employee use and the employer has an emergency action plan and a fire prevention plan that meet the requirements of [29 CFR 1910.38], then only the requirements detailed in the articles that address the inspection, maintenance and testing and hydrostatic testing requirements will apply. [29 CFR 1910.157(a)]
Selection and distribution requirements
An employer must:
- Provide portable fire extinguishers for employee use. Select and distribute the extinguishers based on the types of anticipated workplace fires and on the size and degree of hazard that would affect their use. [29 CFR 1910.157(d)(1)]
- Distribute portable extinguishers for use on Class A fires so that the travel distance for employees to any extinguisher is 75 feet (22.9 meters) or less. [29 CFR 1910.157(d)(2)]
- 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 29 CFR 1910.158 or 29 CFR 1910.159, that they provide total coverage of the area to be protected, and that employees are trained at least annually in their use. [29 CFR 1910.157(d)(3)]
- Distribute portable fire extinguishers for use on Class B fires so that the travel distance for employees to any extinguisher is 50 feet (15.2 meters) or less. [29 CFR 1910.157(d)(4)]
- Distribute portable fire extinguishers for use on Class C hazards on the appropriate pattern for the existing Class A or Class B hazards. [29 CFR 1910.157(d)(5)]
- Distribute portable fire extinguishers or other containers of Class D extinguishing agent for employee use so that the travel distance from the combustible metal working area to any extinguisher is 75 feet (22.9 meters) or less. Portable fire extinguishers for Class D hazards are required in areas where combustible metal powders, flakes, shavings, or similarly sized products are generated at least once every two weeks. [29 CFR 1910.157(d)(6)]
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