True or False: Portable Fire Extinguishers

Monday, June 12, 2017

Readers of this newsletter will by now know that violations of OSHA's standards on portable fire extinguishers are a common source of citations for lumber dealers. While the penalties are more modest than violations of other OSHA standards, maintaining compliance with 1910.157 should be easy and an active part of your safety program.

True or False?

1. As long as the right employees know where we keep the fire extinguishers, it’s OK if everyone else in the yard doesn’t know.

2. Because the company has an emergency action plan for the yard that designates only certain employees as authorized to use the available portable fire extinguishers, I only need to train the designated employees on the proper use of the extinguishers.

3. The employer can pick and choose where to place its portable fire extinguishers so long as there is at least one in each work area.

4. As long as my employees know where fire extinguishers are, I don’t need to worry about creating a special place for them.

5. Since fire extinguishers are easy to learn how to use, I only need to train my employees once, at the time of hiring, on the proper use of fire extinguishers.

6. The employer should inspect portable fire extinguishers at least once a year.

7. The employer should have portable fire extinguishers tested at least once a year.

8. The only maintenance record required is the tag on the portable fire extinguisher.

9. Even though I have fire extinguishers distributed throughout the yard, if any one extinguisher is removed for maintenance or recharging, an alternative equivalent protection must be provided.

10. No matter what the situation or condition of the fire, employees should retrieve and use the portable fire extinguishers – they’ve been trained to use them and that’s what the fire extinguishers are for.


1. False: The employers must provide portable fire extinguishers and mount, locate and identify them so that they are readily accessible to employees without subjecting employees to possible injury. 1910.157 (c)(1).

2. True: Where the employer's emergency action plan designates certain employees to be the only employees authorized to use the available fire extinguishers and requires all other employees to immediately evacuate the affected work area upon the sounding of a fire alarm, the employer need only train those designated employees. See 1910.157(b)(2) and 1910.157(g)(4).

3. False: OSHA 1910.157(d) includes specific distribution requirements for portable fire extinguishers, depending on the Class of fires identified as hazards in the workplace.

4. False: The general OSHA requirement is that the fire extinguishers be mounted, located and identified so that they are readily accessible to employees without subjecting them to possible injury. 1910.157(c)(1).

5. False: The employer must educate employees on the general principles of fire extinguisher use and the hazards involved with incipient fire fighting when employees are first hired and once a year thereafter. See 1910.157(g)(1) and 1910.157(g)(2).

6. False: Portable extinguishers shall be visually inspected monthly. 1910.157(e)(2).

7. True: The employer shall assure that portable fire extinguishers are subjected to an annual maintenance check. 1910.157(e)(3).

8. False: The employer must record the annual maintenance date and retain the record for one year after the last entry or the life of the shell, whichever is less. The employer must also make the record available to OSHA inspectors upon request. 1910.157(e)(3).

9. True: The employer must provide alternative equivalent protection when portable fire extinguishers are removed from service for maintenance and recharging. 1910.157(e)(5).

10. False: Fire extinguishers are only effective against “incipient stage fire” which means a fire which is in the initial or beginning stage and which can be controlled or extinguished by a portable fire extinguisher without the need for protective clothing or breathing apparatus. 1910.155(c)(26). OSHA recommends that employees evacuate immediately if the extinguisher has been emptied and the fire is not out or if the fire progresses beyond the incipient stage.

For more detail for the answer explanations, please see NLBMDA's True or False: Portable Fire Extinguishers (NLBMDA Safety Series, May 22, 2017), posted on NLBMDA's Environment, Health & Safety Resource Center.

NLBMDA 6/12/2017

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