Virtually every employer provides portable fire extinguishers in the workplace. The California Code of Regulations (CCR) Title 8, Section 6151 details the regulatory standards for fire extinguishers. Cal OSHA is the government agency that inspects and enforces the requirements. Employers are frequently cited for improper storage, maintenance, recordkeeping, and employee training required with fire extinguishers. This article is a summary of the code and a tool to help prevent violations and monetary penalties.

Employers must evaluate the fire hazards and sizes that might occur in their workplace and choose which type and capacity fire extinguishers to provide:

  • Class A fires include wood, paper and textiles.
  • Class B fires include flammable liquids.
  • Class C fires include electrical equipment.
  • Class D fires include metal powders and shavings.
  • Class K fire extinguishers are required for commercial and restaurant kitchens.

Cal OSHA mandates different distribution requirements within the building for each extinguisher class. Class A and D fire extinguishers must be supplied every 75 feet or less; Class B extinguishers every 50 feet or less; Class K extinguishers are required every 30 feet. Class C extinguishers should be distributed based on the pattern for existing Class A or Class B hazards.

Fire extinguishers should be securely mounted on the wall or inside a cabinet. They must be accessible at all times. Furniture and storage materials should not block access. Employees require training on building fire extinguisher locations; evacuation maps can be marked with the locations.

Inspection, maintenance, and testing are required for fire extinguishers. They must be fully charged and in operable condition at all times. When they are removed for service, equivalent equipment must be provided. An annual maintenance check and recharge by a trained person are mandatory. For optimum service, fire extinguishers require hydrostatic testing every five-to-12 years by a trained person with suitable testing equipment and facilities. The annual service and periodic testing must be documented on the fire extinguisher service tag.

The code requires monthly fire extinguisher inspections. The extinguisher must be operable and free of dents, leaks, and other signs of damage. Pressure gauge arrows must be in the green “charged” zone. The date and initials of the inspector must be noted monthly on an extinguisher service tag.

Employee training is required; it must cover the general principles of fire extinguisher use and the hazards involved with beginning stage firefighting. Training should include reporting fires, evaluating fire size, using the provided extinguishers, and maintaining an exit route. This training should be provided when first employed, when assigned to an emergency response team, and at least annually thereafter. Training records should be documented.

Proper fire extinguisher inspection, maintenance, distribution, and employee training can make the workplace fire safe and ensure compliance with California Code.