Where’s the Fire Extinguisher?
Robert S. Michaud, P.E.
May 8, 2020
Fire extinguishers are often the first line of defense should a fire break out in your facility. Before we get into too much detail in this analysis, please consult your local, state and federal codes on the proper use, location, application and maintenance of fire extinguisher for your building. Depending on your location, there will likely be one or more codes that dictate the specifics about fire extinguishers and in fact, some codes overlap, or at least, compliment each other. For instance, most, if not all, jurisdictions adhere to the NFPA code requirements, but were you aware that OSHA has guidelines for their mounting, placement and signage? Refer to CFR 1910.157 for more information. For NFPA: From the 2018 edition of NFPA 1
18.104.22.168* Where Required. Fire extinguishers shall be provided where required by this Code as specified in Table 22.214.171.124 and the referenced codes and standards listed in Chapter 2.
With all that said, the picture above depicts a fire extinguisher that is located in a pretty awkward place. It doesn’t meet the OSHA requirements of having the extinguisher “readily accessible to employees without subjecting the employees to possible injury.” That fire extinguisher is located really close to the ground without many (any) markings around it to indicate that it is there, and it is very close to the adjacent electric motor, and there is a pipe located along the floor next to it as well. The pipe poses a tripping hazard, with the electric motor right there to catch your fall!
There are a lot of considerations to review when locating your fire extinguishers, and as mentioned above, please check with the codes applicable in your location first. In addition to that, as a building or maintenance manager, you need to be sure that they are being inspected and tested regularly. We can see in this photo that this extinguisher has an inspection tag on it, but when was it inspected last? As it is located in a hard to find place, it wouldn’t be surprising to find that it had not been inspected in a while. Take a moment when you find an out of the way extinguisher like this to review its tag. If it hasn’t been inspected, work with your inspection company to make sure it gets added to the list and if you do decide to relocate it, let them know about that too.
Fire extinguishers are great tools and they can prevent a minor flare up from becoming a full building fire. However, they need maintenance and attention just like everything else. It is too easy to get complacent and just walk by these red sentinels. Take a moment and give them a closer look the next time you see them – you will be glad you did.