Part 3 Of The Guide To Understanding The OSHA Requirements For Portable Fire Extinguishers

Travis Jolliff

This is Part 3 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 while Part 2 in the series focused on the Selection and Distribution Requirements. Part 3 in the series will focus on the Inspection, Maintenance and Testing 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)]

Inspection, maintenance and testing requirements

An employer must:

  • Inspect, maintain, and test all portable fire extinguishers in the workplace. [29 CFR 1910.157(e)(1)]
  • Visually inspect portable extinguishers or hoses monthly. [29 CFR 1910.157(e)(2)]
  • Perform an annual maintenance check on portable fire extinguishers. Stored pressure extinguishers do not require an internal examination. 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. Make the record available to the Assistant Secretary upon request. [29 CFR 1910.157(e)(3)]
  • Empty and maintain dry chemical extinguishers (that require a 12-year hydrostatic test) every six years. Dry chemical extinguishers that have non-refillable disposable containers are exempt from this requirement. When recharging or hydrostatic testing is performed, the six-year requirement begins from that date. [29 CFR 1910.157(e)(4)]
  • Provide alternate equivalent protection when portable fire extinguishers are removed from service for maintenance and recharging. [29 CFR 1910.157(e)(5)]

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