Fire Extinguishers

 In 2023, Tip of the Week

We shared this picture of a fire extinguisher in last week’s tip. We asked you what you saw that might have room for improvement. What did you come up with? Here are some of our thoughts.

In looking at this picture, we think that at one time the extinguisher in the picture was accessible. We made that assumption because in the picture you can see the merchandise in front of the extinguisher is on two tables pushed together. This is like a lot of places where at first, fire extinguishers are “readily accessible to employees” as required by the regulations (29 CFR Part 1910.157(c)(1)). But over time stuff starts to accumulate. Extinguishers become less accessible. We’ve seen extinguishers used as coat hangers, a place to hang umbrellas to dry, or the space around them become cluttered with file boxes, equipment, and like in this picture, merchandise. We would recommend to the store management that they find another place to hang the fire extinguisher or find another place to display their merchandise.

Portable fire extinguishers are often mistaken as fire prevention devices. Extinguishers do not prevent fires. They are fire suppression devices, as is indicated by the name “extinguisher.” Unlike other suppression systems, such as automatic fire sprinklers, a portable fire extinguisher needs us to activate it to do its’ job, which is putting out fires. If the extinguisher is difficult to reach, like the one in the picture, it is ineffective.

The signage is also problematic. How many of us would look up about 15 to 18 feet to see that sign? The same regulation that requires the fire extinguisher to be accessible also requires it to be identified. If the sign is not in your line of vision, it can’t reasonably identify the location of a fire extinguisher. If store management decides to keep the extinguisher in the same location, we would recommend that the sign be lowered to where it is seen more easily.

SCM friend and loyal safety tip reader, John Reed from New Hampshire offered what we think is good advice. As a safety professional, if John saw smoke, fire, or heard a fire alarm while inside the building, he would start getting others in the building to evacuate. He also asked where the closest exit was to that extinguisher. You can’t tell from the picture. Often while in large buildings, it is important to locate more than one exit and be mindful of exiting options should there be an emergency.

Thanks for the good tip, John. We always welcome comments from our readers. If you have more suggestions, please send them in by replying to our safety tips.
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