Fire Extinguisher Regulations
Fire Extinguisher Regulations
The following are some important fire extinguisher regulations:
Scope. The provisions of this standard apply to the selection, installation, inspection, maintenance, and testing of portable extinguishing equipment. 1.1.1 Portable fire extinguishers are intended as a first line of defense to cope with fires of limited size. 1.1.2 The selection and installation of extinguishers is independent of whether the building is equipped with automatic sprinklers, standpipe and hose, or other fixed protection equipment. (See 5.5.5, 126.96.36.199, 188.8.131.52, and 184.108.40.206.) 1.1.3 The requirements given herein are minimum. 1.1.4 The requirements do not apply to permanently installed systems for fire extinguishment, even where portions of such systems are portable (such as hose and nozzles attached to a fixed supply of extinguishing agent).
1910.157 Portable fire extinguishers.
1. Scope and application. The scope and application of this section is written to apply to three basic types of workplaces. First, there are those workplaces where the employer has chosen to evacuate all employees from the workplace at the time of a fire emergency. Second, there are those workplaces where the employer has chosen to permit certain employees to fight fires and to evacuate all other non-essential employees at the time of a fire emergency. Third, there are those workplaces where the employer has chosen to permit all employees in the workplace to use portable fire extinguishers to fight fires.
The section also addresses two kinds of work areas. The entire workplace can be divided into outside (exterior) work areas and inside (interior) work areas. This division of the workplace into two areas is done in recognition of the different types of hazards employees may be exposed to during fire fighting operations. Fires in interior workplaces, pose a greater hazard to employees; they can produce greater exposure to quantities of smoke, toxic gases, and heat because of the capability of a building or structure to contain or entrap these products of combustion until the building can be ventilated. Exterior work areas, normally open to the environment, are somewhat less hazardous, because the products of combustion are generally carried away by the thermal column of the fire. Employees also have a greater selection of evacuation routes if it is necessary to abandon fire fighting efforts.
In recognition of the degree of hazard present in the two types of work areas, the standards for exterior work areas are somewhat less restrictive in regards to extinguisher distribution. Paragraph (a) explains this by specifying which paragraphs in the section apply.
2. Portable fire extinguisher exemptions. In recognition of the three options given to employers in regard to the amount of employee evacuation to be carried out, the standards permit certain exemptions based on the number of employees expected to use fire extinguishers.
Where the employer has chosen to totally evacuate the workplace at the time of a fire emergency and when fire extinguishers are not provided, the requirements of this section do not apply to that workplace.
Where the employer has chosen to partially evacuate the workplace or the effected area at the time of a fire emergency and has permitted certain designated employees to remain behind to operate critical plant operations or to fight fires with extinguishers, then the employer is exempt from the distribution requirements of this section. Employees who will be remaining behind to perform incipient fire fighting or members of a fire brigade must be trained in their duties. The training must result in the employees becoming familiar with the locations of fire extinguishers. Therefore, the employer must locate the extinguishers in convenient locations where the employees know they can be found. For example, they could be mounted in the fire truck or cart that the fire brigade uses when it responds to a fire emergency. They can also be distributed as set forth in the National Fire Protection Association’s Standard No. 10, “Portable Fire Extinguishers.”
Where the employer has decided to permit all employees in the workforce to use fire extinguishers, then the entire OSHA section applies.
3. Portable fire extinguisher mounting. Previous standards for mounting fire extinguishers have been criticized for requiring specific mounting locations. In recognition of this criticism, the standard has been rewritten to permit as much flexibility in extinguisher mounting as is acceptable to assure that fire extinguishers are available when needed and that employees are not subjected to injury hazards when they try to obtain an extinguisher.
It is the intent of OSHA to permit the mounting of extinguishers in any location that is accessible to employees without the use of portable devices such as a ladder. This limitation is necessary because portable devices can be moved or taken from the place where they are needed and, therefore, might not be available at the time of an emergency.
Employers are given as much flexibility as possible to assure that employees can obtain extinguishers as fast as possible. For example, an acceptable method of mounting extinguishers in areas where fork lift trucks or tow-motors are used is to mount the units on retractable boards which, by means of counter-weighting, can be raised above the level where they could be struck by vehicular traffic. When needed, they can be lowered quickly for use. This method of mounting can also reduce vandalism and unauthorized use of extinguishers. The extinguishers may also be mounted as outlined in the National Fire Protection Association’s Standard No. 10, “Portable Fire Extinguishers.”
5. Substitution of standpipe systems for portable fire extinguishers. The employer is permitted to substitute acceptable standpipe systems for portable fire extinguishers under certain circumstances. It is necessary to assure that any substitution will provide the same coverage that portable units provide. This means that fire hoses, because of their limited portability, must be spaced throughout the protected area so that they can reach around obstructions such as columns, machinery, etc. and so that they can reach into closets and other enclosed areas.
6. Inspection, maintenance and testing. The ultimate responsibility for the inspection, maintenance and testing of portable fire extinguishers lies with the employer. The actual inspection, maintenance, and testing may, however, be conducted by outside contractors with whom the employer has arranged to do the work. When contracting for such work, the employer should assure that the contractor is capable of performing the work that is needed to comply with this standard.
If the employer should elect to perform the inspection, maintenance, and testing requirements of this section in-house, then the employer must make sure that those persons doing the work have been trained to do the work and to recognize problem areas which could cause an extinguisher to be inoperable. The National Fire Protection Association provides excellent guidelines in its standard for portable fire extinguishers. The employer may also check with the manufacturer of the unit that has been purchased and obtain guidelines on inspection, maintenance, and testing. Hydrostatic testing is a process that should be left to contractors or individuals using suitable facilities and having the training necessary to perform the work.
Anytime the employer has removed an extinguisher from service to be checked or repaired, alternate equivalent protection must be provided. Alternate equivalent protection could include replacing the extinguisher with one or more units having equivalent or equal ratings, posting a fire watch, restricting the unprotected area from employee exposure, or providing a hose system ready to operate.
7. Hydrostatic testing. As stated before, the employer may contract for hydrostatic testing. However, if the employer wishes to provide the testing service, certain equipment and facilities must be available. Employees should be made aware of the hazards associated with hydrostatic testing and the importance of using proper guards and water pressures. Severe injury can result if extinguisher shells fail violently under hydrostatic pressure.
Employers are encouraged to use contractors who can perform adequate and reliable service. Firms which have been certified by the Materials Transportation Board (MTB) of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) or State licensed extinguisher servicing firms or recognized by the National Association of Fire Equipment Distributors in Chicago, Illinois, are generally acceptable for performing this service.
8. Training and education. This part of the standard is of the utmost importance to employers and employees if the risk of injury or death due to extinguisher use is to be reduced. If an employer is going to permit an employee to fight a workplace fire of any size, the employer must make sure that the employee knows everything necessary to assure the employee’s safety.
Training and education can be obtained through many channels. Often, local fire departments in larger cities have fire prevention bureaus or similar organizations which can provide basic fire prevention training programs. Fire insurance companies will have data and information available. The National Fire Protection Association and the National Safety Council will provide, at a small cost, publications that can be used in a fire prevention program.
Actual fire fighting training can be obtained from various sources in the country. The Texas A & M University, the University of Maryland’s Fire and Rescue Institute, West Virginia University’s Fire Service Extension, Iowa State University’s Fire Service Extension and other State training schools and land grant colleges have fire fighting programs directed to industrial applications. Some manufacturers of extinguishers, such as the Ansul Company and Safety First, conduct fire schools for customers in the proper use of extinguishers. Several large corporations have taken time to develop their own on-site training programs which expose employees to the actual “feeling” of fire fighting. Simulated fires for training of employees in the proper use of extinguishers are also an acceptable part of a training program.
In meeting the requirements of this section, the employer may also provide educational materials, without classroom instruction, through the use of employee notice campaigns using instruction sheets or flyers or similar types of informal programs. The employer must make sure that employees are trained and educated to recognize not only what type of fire is being fought and how to fight it, but also when it is time to get away from it and leave fire suppression to more experienced fire fighters.