Most business owners understand that they must provide portable fire extinguishers for their employees, but there is often confusion about the fire extinguisher location requirements. Here are simple answers to five of the most frequently asked fire extinguisher location questions for businesses.
1. Where should fire extinguishers be located?
Fire extinguishers need to be readily accessible by employees in the event of a fire. Depending on your facility’s fire hazards, fire extinguishers with different ratings may be required in different locations.
The basic types of portable fire extinguisher ratings are Class A, B, C, D, or K. Here are the locations where each type of extinguisher is required:
Class A: Locations that contain ordinary combustible materials, including offices, classrooms, and assembly halls.
Class B: Workshops, storage areas, garages, warehouses, or service and manufacturing areas that contain flammable liquids or gasses.
Class C: Anywhere energized electrical equipment is used.
Class D: Areas that generate metal powders, shavings, or flakes at least every 1-2 weeks.
Class K: Kitchens or other locations where combustible cooking oils or fats might exist.
2. How far apart do fire extinguishers need to be?
Many people are under the impression that fire extinguishers need to be located a certain distance apart from each other; however, as with location, the distance requirements for fire extinguishers are actually based on the size of the area, the type of fire extinguishers, and the locations of potential hazards.
The information below gives you an idea of how close your fire extinguishers should be to your employees depending on the hazard type. Maximum travel distance refers to the farthest an employee should need to travel before reaching an extinguisher. Spacing refers to the extinguishers’ required distance from each other or from the hazard itself.
Class A Fire Extinguishers
Hazards: Ordinary combustible materials (cloth, wood, paper, rubber, plastic, etc.)
Spacing:One extinguisher every 3,000 square feet
Maximum Travel Distance: 75 feet
Class B Fire Extinguishers
Hazards: Flammable liquids or gasses (gasoline, natural gas, etc.)
Maximum Travel Distance: 50 feet
Class C Fire Extinguishers
Hazards: Electrical (machinery, electrical cables)
Spacing/Maximum Travel Distance: Based on the Class A or B hazard
Class D Fire Extinguishers
Hazards: Flammable metals
Spacing: 75 feet from the hazard
Class K Fire Extinguishers
Hazards: Cooking oils and fats
Maximum Travel Distance: 30 feet
3. Do I need a map showing fire extinguisher location?
It is very likely that your business is required to have an evacuation map, whether by OSHA, your local fire marshal, your insurance carrier, or industry regulation agency. Since fire extinguishers may be needed in order to escape the building, you should include their locations on your map.
4. How should fire extinguishers be mounted to the wall?
Fire extinguishers need to be mounted to the wall so that they are secure, visible, and readily accessible. It is also important to mount them in such a way that they cannot be easily moved or damaged. Typically, extinguishers are mounted so that the carrying handle is placed between 3 ½ - 5 feet from the floor, but larger equipment may need to be mounted lower.
5. Do my fire extinguishers need signs above them?
Fire extinguishers are required to be easily identifiable. Sometimes, however, they may not be so easy to spot from a distance. Extinguishers may be blocked from view by obstructions such as shelving or open doors, or the person may be standing at the wrong angle.
This is why it is best to install a sign or other means of identification above a portable fire extinguisher. How high? The answer depends on your jobsite conditions. In some cases the sign may need to be posted quite high, such as near the ceiling as opposed to directly above the extinguisher.
Answering these common fire extinguisher location questions may be simple, but executing the recommendations isn’t always straightforward. A fire protection company can help you navigate all of the fire extinguisher requirements and ensure that your business is fully compliant and safe.