There’s a simple trick to visualize whether your office is out of compliance with OSHA fire extinguisher spacing requirements.
Ask yourself: is every employee in your office within a 75-foot travel distance of a fire extinguisher? For reference, 75 feet is about the distance between home plate and first base on a Little League baseball field. Keep in mind, this is a 75-foot travel distance rule, not a straight line rule, so if your employees have to go out of offices and around corners to reach their closest fire extinguisher, factor that in.
If all your employees are within that distance, congratulations, you’ve already taken the first step to be in compliance and keep your employees safe. But that isn’t the only requirement.
Here are some additional factors to consider when deciding the number and placement of fire extinguishers in an office building.
Specific fire extinguisher placement requirements
The specific fire extinguisher location requirements from OSHA’s Occupational Safety and Health Standards break down the requirements for fire extinguisher locations in commercial buildings.
The 75-foot standard comes from fire extinguishers used for Class A fires, the ordinary combustible material fires that are the most common types of office blazes.
If you work in an office that has special fire hazards, such as a commercial kitchen or environments with flammable gases, you must observe stricter fire extinguisher spacing requirements. For more information on these types of hazards, please see our previous post that answers other workplace fire extinguisher location requirement questions.
Just as important as having fire extinguishers close enough to all employees is having fire extinguishers accessible in an emergency. That means the fire extinguishers should be clearly visible and properly maintained. OSHA’s standards spell out the specific inspection and maintenance requirements, which include monthly visual inspections to keep extinguishers filled and pressurized.
How to mount fire extinguishers
To prevent fire extinguishers from being moved or damaged, OSHA recommends mounting them on brackets or in wall cabinets.
The height of the fire extinguisher should be determined by the weight:
- Small fire extinguishers (that weigh less than 40 pounds) should be mounted with their handles no higher than five feet from the floor.
- Heavier portable fire extinguishers should be mounted at lower heights, with their handles no higher than 3 ½ feet from the floor.
- The base of all portable fire extinguishers should be at least four inches from the floor.
Consider your office’s specific hazards
Fires break out in offices for different reasons than they do in homes and other types of commercial buildings. In general, cooking, electrical equipment, and heating equipment are the most common types of office building fires.
Your office’s specific hazards and specific layout will determine the best locations for fire extinguishers. For example, if your office has a break room or kitchen, that room has a particularly high probability of being the origin point of a fire. Kitchen-specific best practices for fire extinguishers are to mount extinguishers within 30 feet of the cooking surface, but not so close that a cooking fire would prevent safe access to the extinguisher. In some cases, that may mean that the kitchen fire extinguisher should be located just outside of the kitchen.
As you determine your office’s fire safety plan, the 75-foot rule is a good starting point in terms of meeting minimum requirements. But there’s a lot more that goes into the strategic placement of fire safety equipment. See Impact Fire's Workplace Fire Safety Tips website for a more detailed look at how to protect your workplace from fire.