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Are You Prepared to Respond to a Fire?

Most employers know that sprinkler, employee alarm, and smoke/fire detection systems are to be maintained and inspected as needed or annually. However, what employers may not realize is that portable fire extinguishers, in addition to the required annual inspection [1910.157(e)(3)], must be visually inspected monthly as well [1910.157(e)(2)]. Employers are also solely responsible for keeping all extinguishers in operable order [1910.157(c)(4)].

David Ashman
David Ashman
Safety and Health Consultant

When inspecting an extinguisher for operability, it is advised to look at the following:

  • The extinguisher’s locking pin and tamper seal are in place.
    Example 1
    An extinguisher's locking pin and tamper seal must be in place, and the needle within the pressure gauge should indicate that the extinguisher is properly charged.
  • The needle within the pressure gauge indicates the extinguisher is properly charged.
  • The hose is without cracks and any other visual signs of damage, particularly extinguishers stored in outside locations.

On several occasions I have discovered extinguishers that were placed by an employer in out of the ordinary locations. Subsequently these overlooked extinguishers had not received an annual inspection for many years. And while “I didn’t know that was there!” or “We hire a vendor to inspect those,” is a common response when out-of-date extinguishers are discovered, it is ultimately the employer’s responsibility to maintain any and all extinguishers on-site, regardless of location. Therefore, be sure any extinguishers kept on forklifts, welding carts and portable machinery/tables or inside electrical rooms, generators rooms and HVAC rooms are inspected routinely. One way to possibly prevent this from occurring is to create a map of your location that incorporates your evacuation plan as well as all extinguishers, permanent or mobile. This map would not only assist the person who performs the monthly inspection, but also prevent the possibility of an extinguisher being overlooked by an outside vendor who may perform the annual inspection.

Example 4
Maintaining a map of your location that includes your evacuation plan and location of fire extinguishers can help to ensure extinguishers do not get overlooked or forgotten about.

In addition to extinguishers, other fire safety precautions to consider when protecting employees are access and egress. For example, fire extinguishers [1910.157(c)(1)] and electrical circuit breaker panels [1910.303(g)(1)(i)] should be accessible at all times in the event of an emergency situation.

All emergency exits and exit routes should be clear without obstructions and exits should never be blocked. Egress should be available not only inside leading toward the exit, but also retreating away from the building. Storage should never be permitted within an exit route, whether it is permanent or temporary. In addition, flammable, combustible, or explosive materials should not be stored close to an exit.

All emergency exit routes must have suitable lighting [1910.37(b)(1)] , and each emergency exit must be clearly marked by an “exit” sign [1910.37(b)(2)] . Decorations or other signage should be placed elsewhere so as not to block or obstruct the view of the exit door or sign.

Never underestimate the importance of fire safety; it is your responsibility as an employer or employee to maintain a safe work environment. If you would like to learn more about fire safety or to receive assistance in being preparing for an emergency, please request a consultation through USF SafetyFlorida at: http://www.usfsafetyflorida.com/Consultation-Request-Form for a free, confidential, consultation.

Example 5
Emergency exits and exit routes should be clear without obstructions; exits should never be blocked.
Example 6
Exits must have suitable lighting and be clearly marked with an exit sign.