Government and regulatory
What went hong: Don’t forget the fire extinguishers
By James Hong
By James Hong
In this issue, I’ll be covering portable fire extinguisher inspections in the workplace. Portable fire extinguishers require monthly inspections and everyone with access to extinguishers in the workplace must be trained to perform them. National requirements fall under the NFPA 10 standards, regulated by the international non-profit organization the National Fire Protection Association. NFPA 10 is a hefty set of rules covering 275 codes and standards for effectively every building, process, service, design and installation, including five classes and three hazard ratings. The inspection requirements for Class A extinguishers include a monthly visual inspection; an annual inspection with maintenance; a disassemble and recharge every six years; and a hydrostatic test after 12 years (it is usually less costly to just buy a new one).
Here’s the visual inspection checklist.
Accessibility: Where is it? Can you reach it with ease? Are there any obstructions?
- Location: Are the units near exits? Are they near pathways? Are there a sufficient number of extinguishers for the area in question?
- Class: Is the class marking clear?
- Tags: Does the tag include the inspection date? Does it include the recharging date and servicing agent?
- Damage: Is the nameplate legible? Is there corrosion, dents or signs of tampering?
- Signage: Is the extinguisher obstructed from view? Do the units require location signage?
- Safety ring: Are the ring and pin in place?
- Tamper seal: Is the zip-tie in place and unbroken? Is the chain in place and unbroken?
- Nozzle: Are the discharge nozzle and nozzle opening clear and free of residue?
- Prior use: Is there powder in the nozzle? If there are signs of use, send the unit for servicing.
- Charging: Check the charge reading on top. Perform a quick lift test.
- Instructions: Are the operating instructions clear? Are they facing outward?
Now for a few important NFPA 10 portable fire extinguisher installation requirements:
For units weighing more than 40 pounds, the top of the fire extinguisher should not be more than 3.5 feet above the floor. Less than 40 pounds, the top of the fire extinguisher should not be more than five feet above the floor. Except for wheeled units, the base must be at least four inches above the floor. The allowed travel distance between standard-size portable fire extinguishers is determined by the class of extinguishers your facility requires. Class A (ordinary combustibles) allows 75 feet or less. Class B (potential for liquid fires) is 50 feet or less. Class C (energized electrical equipment present) is 75 feet or less. Class D: (potential for fires involving combustible metals) is also 75 feet or less. Finally, Class K (potential for fires involving combustible cooking media) requires an extinguisher every 30 feet or less.
All buildings require Class A extinguishers. Units rated for class B, C, D and K hazards must be installed when those hazards are present. A single fire extinguisher capable of fighting more than one type of fire may meet the requirements for multiple fire types.
As per the Canada Labour Code 937-1-IPG-038, employers are responsible for training employees who have access to fire extinguishers in the workplace, as well as providing refresher training between six months to one year. The main take away here, is to have the correct class of extinguisher, know where the fire protection equipment is located, know how to operate the equipment, and remember the acronym PASS: pull the pin; aim at the base of the fire; squeeze the trigger; sweep the nozzle.
Be safe. Be well.
James Hong is an OH&S consultant for the construction industry.