Portable Fire Extinguishers Guide (Spanish) 

In the event of a fire, using the wrong type of extinguisher, or using one improperly, could result in additional property damage and injury. It is extremely important to deal promptly and effectively with any fire that occurs.

Fire extinguishers are intended and sized for incipient (beginning, small) fires only. Never attempt to stay in the area of a fire if heat, smoke, or other risks are developing that can affect unprotected persons. Evacuate the area and wait for the fire department to arrive with their protective gear and advanced extinguishing equipment. If at all possible, notify the fire department first or have a co-worker call 911 while incipient fire extinguishing is started.

Fire Classifications and Extinguisher Placement
When a fire starts, the proper method for extinguishing the fire must be used. This depends on what is burning, which identifies the fire classification.

The four classes are:

  • Class A - general combustibles such as wood, cloth, paper, or rubbish. Fire extinguishers should be placed a maximum 75 feet from any work area. On construction projects, a minimum of one 2A extinguisher per floor and one 2A extinguisher for every 3,000 square feet is required.
  • Class B - flammable liquids such as gasoline, oil, grease, or paint. Fire extinguishers should be placed a maximum 50 feet from any work area that contains flammable liquids. On construction projects, one 10B extinguisher is required for every five gallons of flammable/combustible liquid and for every five pounds of flammable gas. Fueling stations should be equipped with two extinguishers to allow attacking fuel fires from two angles simultaneously and avoid reflash.
  • Class C - electrical equipment. Fire extinguishers must be Class C-rated and should be placed according to Class A or Class B hazards depending upon the environment. Combustible metals include magnesium, lithium, and sodium.
  • Class D - rated fire extinguishers or extinguishing agent should be placed at a maximum 75 feet from any combustible metal work or storage area.

Portable fire extinguishers should be hung on or clamped into secure brackets at heights that allow safe lifting without excessive reach or bending to retrieve the extinguisher. This prevents the extinguisher from being knocked over and damaged. The fire extinguisher location should be easily identifiable or easily found through additional signage. Access to a fire extinguisher should always remain clear and free from obstructions.

Fire Extinguisher Maintenance
Fire extinguishers should have an annual maintenance check. This is to be documented and include the date of the inspection. Depending on the extinguisher type and age, hydrostatic testing may be required. Carbon dioxide extinguishers should be tested every five years, and dry chemical extinguishers every 12 years. Dry chemical extinguishers should be emptied, maintained and refilled every six years. Nonrefillable disposable containers are exempt. Damaged extinguisher tanks should be discarded.

Fire Extinguisher Inspections 
All fire extinguishers should be visually inspected monthly. Damaged or missing parts, including pins, seals, nozzles, etc. require that the extinguisher be removed from use until it is completely checked and maintained. Missing seals and pins could indicate that some or most of the extinguishing powder has already been discharged, leaving the remainder ineffective. Extinguishers showing less than proper functioning pressures should be replaced, checked and recharged. The monthly inspection can be documented on a tag attached to the fire extinguisher.

Employee Training
Employees should receive training on workplace fire hazards and the hazards associated with fighting fires. The general principles of the types of fire extinguishers and each type’s proper use should be a part of the training program. The training should be conducted when an employee initially assigned to use a fire extinguisher and annually thereafter. Fire prevention should always be a priority. Following these guidelines will help ensure the proper type, placement, and use of portable fire extinguishers should a minor fire occur. 

OSHA 29 CFR 1910.157
OSHA 29 CFR 1926.150

Additional Resources
WCF Insurance Safety Department
(385) 351-8103

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NOTICE: This guide may make reference to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations; however the guide is not legal advice as to compliance with OSHA or other safety laws, codes, or regulations. Compliance with OSHA and other safety laws codes or regulations, and maintaining a safe work environment for your employees remains your responsibility. WCF Insurance does not undertake to perform the duty of any person to provide for the health or safety of your employees. WCF Insurance does not warrant that your workplace is safe or healthful, or that it complies with any laws, regulations, codes, or standards.