Fire extinguishers not only need to be within easy access. The also need to be properly and safely stored to keep them in proper working order.
Here are three best practices for storing fire extinguishers in the workplace.
Place fire extinguishers in the right locations
Fire extinguisher location is critical to ensuring that an extinguisher is always easily accessible in the event of a fire. The location and distance requirements for fire extinguishers are based on the size of the area, the type of fire extinguishers, and the locations of potential hazards.
Keep these best practices in mind:
- Know the right type of fire extinguisher for different areas of your workplace, depending on the hazards (ordinary combustible materials, flammables, electrical equipment, etc.)
- Check the maximum travel distance required by code. This refers to the farthest a person should need to travel before reaching an extinguisher, and it differs depending on the class of extinguishers and the hazard type.
- Pay careful attention to areas of higher fire risk like IT server rooms and oil fryers.
Store extinguishers in the proper position and temperature
Most modern extinguishers are rated to perform properly at a wide temperature range. For example, Kidde specifies that their extinguishers should be stored in temperatures ranging from -40 degrees F to 120 degrees F.
Most workplaces shouldn’t have an issue keeping their extinguishers within that temperature range, but in extreme cases, it could happen! Fire extinguishers stored at too low a temperature could acquire a cracked valve or hose, so avoid allowing your extinguishers to freeze.
Many people wonder whether extinguishers can be stored on their sides. While modern extinguishers can be stored horizontally (the contents are under pressure and the angle of storage will not cause the system to leak), proper fire extinguisher storage includes using the appropriate mounting brackets to keep the extinguisher within easy access. Horizontal storage typically isn’t optimal for employee access in an emergency, so it’s not recommended.
Maintain accessibility and visibility of extinguishers
If fire extinguishers aren’t readily available, they won’t be used. One of the most important aspects of storing fire extinguishers is making sure they are accessible and clearly visible. Keep the following in mind:
- Always keep areas in front of fire extinguishers clean and clear of obstructions.
- Mount fire extinguishers in such a way that they can’t be removed or damaged.
- Mount so the carrying handle is between 3.5 to 5 feet from the floor for more universal accessibility.
- Install a sign or other means of identification above a portable fire extinguisher.
- Sign height should be based on your jobsite conditions. Mount high enough so it will not be blocked by equipment.
- For particularly dirty worksites, protect fire extinguishers with a removable cover
It’s no secret that fire extinguishers are an important and necessary part of safety in the workplace. Proper fire extinguisher storage helps ensure that your extinguishers remain in peak operating condition, ready to be called into action in case of fire. Conduct a fire extinguisher inventory to ensure all of your extinguishers meet the storage criteria above.