It’s the Law

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration and many state and local laws and ordinances, most businesses are required to make fire extinguishers available to employees in case of a fire.

Regulations (Standards – 29 Code of Federal Regulations CFR)

Portable Fire Extinguishers – 1910.157 (OSHA)

General Requirements


The employer shall provide portable fire extinguishers and shall mount, locate and identify them so that they are readily accessible to employees without subjecting the employees to possible injury.


Only approved portable fire extinguishers shall be used to meet the requirements of this section.


The employer shall assure that portable fire extinguishers are maintained in a fully charged and operable condition and kept in their designated places at all times except during use.


Portable fire extinguishers shall be provided for employee use and selected and distributed based on the classes of anticipated workplace fires and on the size and degree of hazard which would affect their use.


The employer shall distribute portable fire extinguishers for use by employees on Class A fires so that the travel distance for employees to any extinguisher is 75 feet (22.9 m) or less.


The employer shall distribute portable fire extinguishers for use by employees on Class B fires so that the travel distance from the Class B hazard area to any extinguisher is 50 feet (15.2 m) or less.


The employer shall distribute portable fire extinguishers used for Class C hazards on the basis of the appropriate pattern for the existing Class A or Class B hazards.


The employer shall distribute portable fire extinguishers or other containers of Class D extinguishing agent for use by employees so that the travel distance from the combustible metal working area to any extinguishing agent is 75 feet (22.9 m) or less. Portable fire extinguishers for Class D hazards are required in those combustible metal working areas where combustible metal powders, flakes, shavings, or similarly sized products are generated at least once every two weeks.

Inspection, Maintenance and Testing


The employer shall be responsible for the inspection, maintenance and testing of all portable fire extinguishers in the workplace.


Portable extinguishers or hose used in lieu thereof under paragraph (d)(3) of this section shall be visually inspected monthly.


The employer shall assure that portable fire extinguishers are subjected to an annual maintenance check. Stored pressure extinguishers do not require an internal examination. The employer shall record the annual maintenance date and retain this record for one year after the last entry or the life of the shell, whichever is less. The record shall be available to the Assistant Secretary upon request.


The employer shall assure that stored pressure dry chemical extinguishers that require a 12-year hydrostatic test are emptied and subjected to applicable maintenance procedures every 6 years. Dry chemical extinguishers having non-refillable disposable containers are exempt from this requirement. When recharging or hydrostatic testing is performed, the 6-year requirement begins from that date.


The employer shall assure that alternate equivalent protection is provided when portable fire extinguishers are removed from service for maintenance and recharging.

Hydrostatic Testing


The employer shall assure that hydrostatic testing is performed by trained persons with suitable testing equipment and facilities.


The employer shall assure that portable extinguishers are hydrostatically tested at the intervals listed in Table L-1 of this section, except under any of the following conditions:


When the unit has been repaired by soldering, welding, brazing, or use of patching compounds;


When the cylinder or shell threads are damaged;


When there is corrosion that has caused pitting, including corrosion under removable name plate assemblies;


When the extinguisher has been burned in a fire; or


When a calcium chloride extinguishing agent has been used in a stainless steel shell.


In addition to an external visual examination, the employer shall assure that an internal examination of cylinders and shells to be tested is made prior to the hydrostatic tests.


Type of extinguishers Test Interval (yrs)
Soda acid (soldered brass shells) (until 1/1/82) (1)
Soda acid (stainless steel shell) 5
Cartridge operated water and/or antifreeze 5
Stored pressure water and/or antifreeze 5
Wetting agent 5
Foam (soldered brass shells) (until 1/1/82) (1)
Foam (stainless steel shell) 5
Aqueous Film Forming foam (AFFF) 5
Loaded stream 5
Dry chemical with stainless steel 5
Carbon Dioxide 5
Dry chemical, stored pressure, with mild steel, brazed brass or aluminum shells 12
Dry chemical, cartridge or cylinder operated, with mild steel shells 12
Halon 1211 12
Halon 1301 12
Dry powder, cartridge or cylinder operated with mild steel shells 12
1Extinguishers having shells constructed of copper or brass joined by soft solder or rivets shall not be hydrostatically tested and shall be removed from service by January 1, 1982. (Not permitted)

The employer shall assure that portable fire extinguishers are hydrostatically tested whenever they show new evidence of corrosion or mechanical injury, except under the conditions listed in paragraphs (f)(2)(i)-(v) of this section.


The employer shall assure that hydrostatic tests are performed on extinguisher hose assemblies which are equipped with a shut-off nozzle at the discharge end of the hose. The test interval shall be the same as specified for the extinguisher on which the hose is installed.


The employer shall assure that carbon dioxide hose assemblies with a shut-off nozzle are hydrostatically tested at 1,250 psi (8,620 kPa).


The employer shall assure that dry chemical and dry powder hose assemblies with a shut-off nozzle are hydrostatically tested at 300 psi (2,070 kPa).


Hose assemblies passing a hydrostatic test do not require any type of recording or stamping.


The employer shall assure that hose assemblies for carbon dioxide extinguishers that require a hydrostatic test are tested within a protective cage device.


The employer shall assure that carbon dioxide extinguishers and nitrogen or carbon dioxide cylinders used with wheeled extinguishers are tested every 5 years at 5/3 of the service pressure as stamped into the cylinder. Nitrogen cylinders which comply with 49 CFR 173.34(e)(15) may be hydrostatically tested every 10 years.


The employer shall assure that all stored pressure and Halon 1211 types of extinguishers are hydrostatically tested at the factory test pressure not to exceed two times the service pressure.


The employer shall assure that acceptable self-generating type soda acid and foam extinguishers are tested at 350 psi (2,410 kPa).


Air or gas pressure may not be used for hydrostatic testing.


Extinguisher shells, cylinders, or cartridges which fail a hydrostatic pressure test, or which are not fit for testing shall be removed from service and from the workplace.


The equipment for testing compressed gas type cylinders shall be of the water jacket type. The equipment shall be provided with an expansion indicator which operates with an accuracy within one percent of the total expansion or .1cc (.1mL) of liquid.


The equipment for testing non-compressed gas type cylinders shall consist of the following:


A hydrostatic test pump, hand or power operated, capable of producing not less than 150 percent of the test pressure, which shall include appropriate check valves and fittings;


A flexible connection for attachment to fittings to test through the extinguisher nozzle, test bonnet, or hose outlet, as is applicable; and


A protective cage or barrier for personal protection of the tester, designed to provide visual observation of the extinguisher under test.


The employer shall maintain and provide upon request to the Assistant Secretary evidence that the required hydrostatic testing of fire extinguishers has been performed at the time intervals shown in Table L-1. Such evidence shall be in the form of a certification record which includes the date of the test, the signature of the person who performed the test and the serial number, or other identifier, of the fire extinguisher that was tested. Such records shall be kept until the extinguisher is hydrostatically retested at the time interval specified in Table L-1 or until the extinguisher is taken out of service, whichever comes first.

Training and Education


Where the employer has provided portable fire extinguishers for employee use in the workplace, the employer shall also provide an educational program to familiarize employees with the general principles of fire extinguisher use and the hazards involved with incipient stage fire fighting.


The employer shall provide the education required in paragraph (g)(1) of this section upon initial employment and at least annually thereafter.


The employer shall provide employees who have been designated to use fire fighting equipment as part of an emergency action plan with training in the use of the appropriate equipment.


The employer shall provide the training required in paragraph (g)(3) of this section upon initial assignment to the designated group of employees and at least annually thereafter.

[45 FR 60708, Sept. 12, 1980; 46 FR 24557, May 1, 1981, as amended at 51 FR 34560, Sept. 29, 1986; 61 FR 9227, March 7, 1996; 67 FR 67964, Nov. 7, 2002]
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Guidelines for Fire Extinguishers, Cabinets, and Fire Hose/Valve Cabinets

The following guidelines should be used when fire extinguisher cabinets, fire hose/valve cabinets, and other fire protection cabinets are located in public accommodations and commercial facilities subject to Title III of the American with Disabilities Act (ADA):

Wall Projections:

ADA Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) specify that objects projecting from walls with their leading edges between 27″ and 80″ above the finished floor shall protrude no more than 4″ into walks, corridors, passageways, or aisles. Objects mounted with their leading edges at or below 27″ may protrude any amount.

Mounting Heights:

ADA Guidelines specify reach ranges for building occupants who require access to equipment such as fire extinguishers and other fire safety devices. For an unobstructed approach, the maximum forward reach is 48” above the floor if a front approach to the equipment is the only option for accessing the equipment.  For example, the fire extinguisher top handle is 48″ above the floor.  54” is the maximum height if a side approach is possible.

The actual mounting heights for cabinets housing this equipment can be determined by reviewing the exact dimensions of the specified cabinet.

28 CFR

National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 10 Portable Fire Extinguishers 2007 Edition


Section 4.5.1 of the 2007 edition of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Standard #10 – “Portable Fire Extinguishers”  requires replacement at the time of internal maintenance or hydrostatic testing of stored-pressure, dry chemical fire extinguishers manufactured prior to October 1984.  The reasons for replacement are as follows:

NFPA 10 requires that the effectiveness and capabilities of fire extinguishers be tested and listed by a third party before can meet local code requirements. Underwriters’ Laboratories (U.L.) is the primary testing agency for that purpose.  In October, 1984, U.L. changed the standard (U.L. 299) to which extinguishers are tested.  The new changes are summarized below

  • Prior to 1984, there were no universally recognized pictographs.  Instead, an operator had to be able to read English and be able to differentiate between usage classification shapes and colors, delaying accurate fire class recognition and enabling fires to burn that much longer.  After 1984, manufacturers are required to use universal pictographs for consistency and for the ease and rapidity of fire class recognition.
  • Revisions were made to the maximum force required to remove pull pins and the minimum amount of force required to shear pull pins to ensure there would be no problems removing or shearing pull pins.
  • The minimum area used to provide operating instructions was revised.
  • New marking, use, recharging, and operating instructions were introduced, rendering older versions obsolete.
  • Prior to 1984, there was no requirement for stored pressure extinguishers 5lb. size or greater to use discharge hoses.  Many 5lb. extinguishers just had a nozzle.  Discharge hoses increase operator effectiveness, since proper usage necessitates one hand on the discharge hose and the other on the actuation lever, resulting in the optimal vertical orientation of the extinguisher during use.  Any orientation other than vertical will result in an incomplete discharge.   Consequently, extinguishers with a 2-A or 20-B or higher effectiveness rating must be equipped with a discharge hose.
  • New requirements for service manuals were introduced.
  • The effectiveness ratings for fire extinguishers tested by Underwriters Laboratories’ prior to 1984 do not equal the effectiveness ratings obtained after 1984, because of a change in U.L.’s testing procedures.  For example, a pre-1984 4B rating might equate to a post 1984 2B rating.   Consequently, for consistency and predictability of fire fighting effectiveness, pre-1984 extinguishers were made obsolete.

Though the pre-1984 extinguishers should work, if properly maintained, they do not represent the current technology and user safety features that are now required.

Fire extinguishers provide a first line of defense to control incipient stage fires.   Users of fire extinguishers need to have confidence in the extinguishers and must be able to operate them effectively with limited training.

Implementation of the latest technology and compliance with the most up-to-date national standards will help ensure fire extinguishers operate effectively and as intended when called upon to do so.

Illinois Fire & Safety also recommends replacement of pre-1984 stored pressure dry chemical fire extinguishers after use on a fire.