Kevin Ian Schmidt

Fire Risk Assessment

Prior to fighting any fire with a portable fire extinguisher you must perform a fire risk assessment that evaluates the fire size, the fire fighters evacuation path, and the atmosphere in the vicinity of the fire.

Check Out: Fire Extinguisher Basics
Risk Assessment Question Characteristics of incipient stage fires or fires that can be extinguished with portable fire extinguishers Characteristics of fires that

SHOULD NOT be fought with a portable fire extinguisher (beyond incipient stage) – evacuate immediately

Is the fire too big? The fire is limited to the original material ignited, it is contained (such as in a waste basket) and has not spread to other materials. The flames are no higher than the firefighter’s head. The fire involves flammable solvents, has spread over more than 60 square feet, is partially hidden behind a wall or ceiling, or cannot be reached from a standing position.
Is the air safe to breathe? The fire has not depleted the oxygen in the room and is producing only small quantities of toxic gases. No respiratory protection equipment is required. Due to smoke and products of combustion, the fire cannot be fought without respiratory protection.
Is the environment too hot or smoky? Heat is being generated, but the room temperature is only slightly increased. Smoke may be accumulating on the

ceiling, but visibility is good. No special personal protective equipment is required.

The radiated heat is easily felt on exposed skin making it difficult to approach within 10-15 feet of the fire (or the effective range of the extinguisher). One must crawl on the floor due to heat or smoke. Smoke is quickly filling the room, decreasing visibility.
Is there a safe evacuation path? There is a clear evacuation path that is behind you as you fight the fire. The fire is not contained, and fire, heat, or smoke may block the evacuation path.

Emergency Exits: OSHA Standards

Emergency Exits are in every business, they are even required by most fire codes, but they are often an overlooked and worse even neglected integral part of a successful safety program. They should even be addressed in your Emergency Action Plan, but if you don’t address them correctly, it can result in OSHA fines, or worse an injured employee or customer.

OSHA standards for emergency exits require employers to do the following:

■ Keep exit routes free of explosive or highly flammable furnishings and other decorations.
Keep flammable chairs, and decorations, or even flammable clothing displays back from emergency exits.
■ Arrange exit routes so employees will not have to travel toward a high-hazard area unless the path of travel is effectively shielded from the high-hazard area.
emergency exitsCheck Out: Fire Risk Assessments

If an exit route is through a backroom, between 2 giant stacks of cardboard boxes, or similar material, it probably won’t meet this standard.

■ Ensure that exit routes are unobstructed such as by materials, equipment, locked doors, or dead-end corridors.
Not only do exit routes and doors have to have a clear path of egress, you also need to ensure that the path doesn’t require weaving around items, or working through a maze of rooms.
■ Ensure that safeguards designed to protect employees during an emergency remain in good working order.
Do you have sprinklers? They need to be inspected regularly. Do you have emergency lights? They need to be inspected regularly. If you have things to protect people, they need to function, test them regularly don’t just trust that they will work during an emergency.
■ Provide lighting for exit routes adequate for employees with normal vision.
blocked-fire-exitIf the lights in your business go out, do you have emergency lighting and is it adequate? You can actually purchase emergency lights that won’t be obtrusive, and blend in with your decor.
■ Keep exit route doors free of decorations or signs that obscure the visibility of exit route doors
We all love to have our business looking great on the inside, decorations, mentions of upcoming events, and such, but keep these things off emergency exit doors, keep the doors easily identifiable for there purpose.
■ Post signs along the exit access indicating the direction of travel to the nearest exit and exit discharge if that direction is not immediately apparent. Also, the line-of-sight to an exit sign must be clearly visible at all times.
Easiest way to check this, is stand in the middle of your business, can you clearly see an emergency exit? If not, you need to add a sign pointing towards the nearest exit. Now move around your business, do you see exits from all the different vantage points? Don’t forget store rooms, back offices and such.
■ Mark doors or passages along an exit access that could be mistaken for an exit “Not an Exit” or with a sign identifying its use (such as “Closet”).
Is your emergency exit the last door on the left, down a hallway? All other doors need to be marked as “not an exit”.
■ Install “EXIT” signs in plainly legible letters.
blocked emergency exitNo fancy script, no plain arrows, simple to read block letters.
■ Renew fire-retardant paints or solutions often enough to maintain their fire-retardant properties.
Did you have a wall painted with fire retardant paint to aid in an evacuation? Did you know even the manufacturer recommends refreshing it every couple of years? Don’t forget little maintenance like that.
■ Maintain exit routes during construction, repairs, or alterations.
Doing some renovations? Keep your exit routes clear, keep the signs visible, or offer secondary routes.
■ Provide an emergency alarm system to alert employees, unless employees can promptly see or smell a fire or other hazard in time to provide adequate warning to them.
Honestly, the baseline standard here, if your business is larger that a single room, you need some form of emergency alarm system.

I hope you understand these guidelines, use them as a baseline for your own emergency exits and exit routes. Check out your own business, or contact me and I will happily discuss setting up an audit, or just answer some of your questions.

Emergency Action Plan Checklist

It is essential that the emergency action plan developed be site specific with respect to emergency conditions evaluated, evacuation policies and procedures, emergency reporting mechanisms, and alarm systems. To assist you in your planning, a checklist is provided that identifies issues that must be considered when drafting a comprehensive emergency action plan. An explanation of each issue and/or examples of how each issue might be addressed in typical workplaces is provided.

Download the checklist here

Download the checklist here for FREE





General Issues
1. Does the plan consider all potential natural or man-made emergencies that could disrupt your workplace? Common sources of emergencies identified in emergency action plans include – fires, explosions, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, toxic material releases, radiological and biological accidents, civil disturbances and workplace violence.
2. Does the plan consider all potential internal sources of emergencies that could disrupt your workplace? Conduct a hazard assessment of the workplace to identify any physical or chemical hazards that may exist and could cause an emergency.
3. Does the plan consider the impact of these internal and external emergencies on the workplace’s operations and is the response tailored to the workplace? Brainstorm worst case scenarios asking yourself what you would do and what would be the likely impact on your operation and device appropriate responses.
4. Does the plan contain a list of key personnel with contact information as well as contact information for local emergency responders, agencies and contractors? Keep your list of key contacts current and make provisions for an emergency communications system such as a cellular phone, a portable radio unit, or other means so that contact with local law enforcement, the fire department, and others can be swift.
5. Does the plan contain the names, titles, departments, and telephone numbers of individuals to contact for additional information or an explanation of duties and responsibilities under the plan? List names and contact information for individuals responsible for implementation of the plan.
6. Does the plan address how rescue operations will be performed? Unless you are a large employer handling hazardous materials and processes or have employees regularly working in hazardous situations, you will probably choose to rely on local public resources, such as the fire department, who are trained, equipped, and certified to conduct rescues. Make sure any external department or agency identified in your plan is prepared to respond as outlined in your plan. Untrained individuals may endanger themselves and those they are trying to rescue.
7. Does the plan address how medical assistance will be provided? Most small employers do not have a formal internal medical program and make arrangements with medical clinics or facilities close by to handle emergency cases and provide medical and first-aid services to their employees. If an infirmary, clinic, or hospital is not close to your workplace, ensure that onsite person(s) have adequate training in first aid. The American Red Cross, some insurance providers, local safety councils, fire departments, or other resources may be able to provide this training. Treatment of a serious injury should begin within 3 to 4 minutes of the accident. Consult with a physician to order appropriate first-aid supplies for emergencies. Establish a relationship with a local ambulance service so transportation is readily available for emergencies.
8. Does the plan identify how or where personal information on employees can be obtained in an emergency? In the event of an emergency, it could be important to have ready access to important personal information about your employees. This includes their home telephone numbers, the names and telephone numbers of their next of kin, and medical information.
Evacuation Policy and Procedures
1. Does the plan identify the conditions under which an evacuation would be necessary? The plan should identify the different types of situations that will require an evacuation of the workplace. This might include a fire, earthquake, or chemical spill. The extent of evacuation may be different for different types of hazards.
2. Does the plan identify a clear chain of command and designate a person authorized to order an evacuation or shutdown of operations? It is common practice to select a responsible individual to lead and coordinate your emergency plan and evacuation. It is critical that employees know who the coordinator is and understand that this person has the authority to make decisions during emergencies. The coordinator should be responsible for assessing the situation to determine whether an emergency exists requiring activation of the emergency procedures, overseeing emergency procedures, notifying and coordinating with outside emergency services, and directing shutdown of utilities or plant operations if necessary.
3. Does the plan address the types of actions expected of different employees for the various types of potential emergencies? The plan may specify different actions for employees depending on the emergency. For example, employers may want to have employees assemble in one area of the workplace if it is threatened by a tornado or earthquake but evacuate to an exterior location during a fire.
4. Does the plan designate who, if anyone, will stay to shut down critical operations during an evacuation? You may want to include in your plan locations where utilities (such as electrical and gas utilities) can be shut down for all or part of the facility. All individuals remaining behind to shut down critical systems or utilities must be capable of recognizing when to abandon the operation or task and evacuate themselves.
5. Does the plan outline specific evacuation routes and exits and are these posted in the workplace where they are easily accessible to all employees? Most employers create maps from floor diagrams with arrows that designate the exit route assignments. These maps should include locations of exits, assembly points and equipment (such as fire extinguishers, first aid kits, spill kits) that may be needed in an emergency. Exit routes should be clearly marked and well lit, wide enough to accommodate the number of evacuating personnel, unobstructed and clear of debris at all times, and unlikely to expose evacuating personnel to additional hazards.
6. Does the plan address procedures for assisting people during evacuations, particularly those with disabilities or who do not speak English? Many employers designate individuals as evacuation wardens to help move employees from danger to safe areas during an emergency. Generally, one warden for every 20 employees should be adequate, and the appropriate number of wardens should be available at all times during working hours. Wardens may be responsible for checking offices and bathrooms before being the last person to exit an area as well as ensuring that fire doors are closed when exiting. Employees designated to assist in emergency evacuation procedures should be trained in the complete workplace layout and various alternative escape routes. Employees designated to assist in emergencies should be made aware of employees with special needs (who may require extra assistance during an evacuation), how to use the buddy system, and any hazardous areas to avoid during an emergency evacuation.
7. Does the plan identify one or more assembly areas (as necessary for different types of emergencies) where employees will gather and a method for accounting for all employees? Accounting for all employees following an evacuation is critical. Confusion in the assembly areas can lead to delays in rescuing anyone trapped in the building, or unnecessary and dangerous search-and-rescue operations. To ensure the fastest, most accurate accounting of your employees, consider taking a head count after the evacuation. The names and last known locations of anyone not accounted for should be passed on to the official in charge.
8. Does the plan address how visitors will be assisted in evacuation and accounted for? Some employers have all visitors and contractors sign in when entering the workplace. The hosts and/or area wardens, if established, are often tasked with assisting these individuals evacuate safely.
Reporting Emergencies and Alerting Employees in an Emergency
1. Does the plan identify a preferred method for reporting fires and other emergencies? Dialing 911 is a common method for reporting emergencies if external responders are utilized. Internal numbers may be used. Internal numbers are sometimes connected to intercom systems so that coded announcements may be made. In some cases employees are requested to activate manual pull stations or other alarm systems.
2. Does the plan describe the method to be used to alert employees, including disabled workers, to evacuate or take other action? Make sure alarms are distinctive and recognized by all employees as a signal to evacuate the work area or perform other actions identified in your plan. Sequences of horn blows or different types of alarms (bells, horns, etc.) can be used to signal different responses or actions from employees. Consider making available an emergency communications system, such as a public address system, for broadcasting emergency information to employees. Ideally alarms will be able to be heard, seen, or otherwise perceived by everyone in the workplace including those that may be blind or deaf. Otherwise floor wardens or others must be tasked with ensuring all employees are notified. You might want to consider providing an auxiliary power supply in the event of an electrical failure.
Employee Training and Drills
1. Does the plan identify how and when employees will be trained so that they understand the types of emergencies that may occur, their responsibilities and actions as outlined in the plan? Training should be offered employees when you develop your initial plan and when new employees are hired. Employees should be retrained when your plan changes due to a change in the layout or design of the facility, when new equipment, hazardous materials, or processes are introduced that affect evacuation routes, or when new types of hazards are introduced that require special actions. General training for your employees should address the following:
Individual roles and responsibilities.
Threats, hazards, and protective actions.
Notification, warning, and communications procedures.
Emergency response procedures.
Evacuation, shelter, and accountability procedures.
Location and use of common emergency equipment.
Emergency shutdown procedures.
You may also need to provide additional training to your employees (i.e. first-aid procedures, portable fire extinguisher use, etc.) depending on the responsibilities allocated employees in your plan.
2. Does the plan address how and when retraining will be conducted? If training is not reinforced it will be forgotten. Consider retaining employees annually.
3. Does the plan address if and how often drills will be conducted? Once you have reviewed your emergency action plan with your employees and everyone has had the proper training, it is a good idea to hold practice drills as often as necessary to keep employees prepared. Include outside resources such as fire and police departments when possible. After each drill, gather management and employees to evaluate the effectiveness of the drill. Identify the strengths and weaknesses of your plan and work to improve it.






Shelter in Place – Emergency Action Plan

Sometimes an emergency is best handled by doing a shelter in place, a good emergency action plan should take this into account and have the appropriate responses included in it.

Specific procedures for shelter in place at a worksite may include the following:

  • shelter in placeClose the business.
  • If there are customers, clients, or visitors in the building, provide for their safety by asking them to stay – not leave. When authorities provide directions to shelter-in-place, they want everyone to take those steps immediately. Do not drive or walk outdoors.
  • Unless there is an imminent threat, ask employees, customers, clients, and visitors to call their emergency contact to let them know where they are and that they are safe.
  • Turn on call-forwarding or alternative telephone answering systems or services. If the business has voice mail or an automated attendant, change the recording to indicate that the business is closed, and that staff and visitors are remaining in the building until authorities advise it is safe to leave.
  • Quickly lock exterior doors and close windows, air vents, and fireplace dampers. Have employees familiar with your building’s mechanical systems turn off all fans, heating and air conditioning systems, and clothes dryers. Some systems automatically provide for exchange of inside air with outside air. These systems, in particular, need to be turned off, sealed, or disabled.
Check Out: Emergency Response Plan Best Practices
  • If you are told there is danger of explosion, close the window shades, blinds, or curtains.
  • Gather essential disaster supplies, such as nonperishable food, bottled water, battery-powered radios, first-aid supplies, flashlights, batteries, duct tape, plastic sheeting, and plastic garbage bags.
  • Select interior room(s) above the ground floor, with the fewest windows or vents. The room(s) should have adequate space for everyone to be able to sit. Avoid overcrowding by selecting several rooms if necessary. Large storage closets, utility rooms, pantries, copy and conference rooms without exterior windows will work well. Avoid selecting a room with mechanical equipment like ventilation blowers or pipes, because this equipment may not be able to be sealed from the outdoors.
  • It is ideal to have a hard-wired telephone in the room(s) you select. Call emergency contacts and have the phone available if you need to report a life-threatening condition. Cellular telephone equipment may be overwhelmed or damaged during an emergency.
The EHS Center offers extensive resources on Emergency Action Plans
  • Take your emergency supplies and go into the room you have designated. Seal all windows, doors, and vents with plastic sheeting and duct tape or anything else you have on hand.
  • Consider precutting plastic sheeting (heavier than food wrap) to seal windows, doors, and air vents. Each piece should be several inches larger than the space you want to cover so that it lies flat against the wall. Label each piece with the location of where it fits. [See image at right]
  • Write down the names of everyone in the room, and call your business’ designated emergency contact to report who is in the room with you, and their affiliation with your business (employee, visitor, client, customer).
  • Listen to the radio, watch television, or use the Internet for further instructions until you are told all is safe or to evacuate. Local officials may call for evacuation in specific areas at greatest risk in your community.
Have some questions on how to properly figure which emergencies should be addressed by a shelter in place response and which should be handled with an evacuation? Check out this white paper by Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), (2002, June).


You do not need to include every process to shelter in place in your Emergency Action Plan, but you should address the relevant ones for the conditions in your area.

OSHA Fire Extinguisher Guidelines

Where extinguishers are provided but are not intended for employee use and the employer has an emergency action plan and a fire prevention plan that meet the requirements of [29 CFR 1910.38], then only the requirements of the inspection, maintenance and testing and hydrostatic testing sections apply. [29 CFR 1910.157(a)]


As the owner of the business, you must:

  • Provide portable fire extinguishers and mount, locate, and identify them so that they are readily accessible to employees without subjecting the employees to possible injury. [29 CFR 1910.157(c)(1)Fire Extinguisher Placement
  • Use only approved portable fire extinguishers. [29 CFR 1910.157(c)(2)Type of fire extinguishers
  • Do not use portable fire extinguishers that use carbon tetrachloride or chlorobromomethane extinguishing agents. [29 CFR 1910.157(c)(3)]
  • Assure that portable fire extinguishers are maintained, fully charged, operating properly, and kept in designated places at all times except during use. [29 CFR 1910.157(c)(4)How to inspect a fire extinguisher
  • Remove from service all soldered or riveted shell self-generating soda acid or self-generating foam or gas cartridge water type portable fire extinguishers that are operated by inverting the extinguisher to rupture the cartridge or to initiate an uncontrollable pressure generating chemical reaction to expel the agent. [29 CFR 1910.157(c)(5)]
Check Out: Fire Extinguisher Inspections

The following exemptions apply:

  • Where the employer has established and implemented a written fire safety policy which requires the immediate and total evacuation of employees from the workplace upon the sounding of a fire alarm signal and which includes an emergency action plan and a fire prevention plan that meet the requirements of 29 CFR 1910.38 and 29 CFR 1910.39 respectively, and when extinguishers are not available in the workplace, the employer is exempt from all requirements of this section unless a specific standard in Part 1910 requires that a portable fire extinguisher be provided. [29 CFR 1910.157(b)(1)]
  • Where the employer has an emergency action plan meeting the requirements of 29 CFR 1910.38, which designates certain employees to be the only employees authorized to use the available portable fire extinguishers, and which requires all other employees in the fire area to immediately evacuate the affected work area upon the sounding of the fire alarm, the employer is exempt from the distribution requirements in the selection and distribution section. [29 CFR 1910.157(b)(2)]


Learn more about fire extinguisher selection and placement

An employer must:

  • Provide portable fire extinguishers for employee use. Select and distribute the extinguishers based on the types of anticipated workplace fires and on the size and degree of hazard that would affect their use. [29 CFR 1910.157(d)(1)]
  • fire-extinguisher-signageDistribute portable extinguishers for use on Class A fires so that the travel distance for employees to any extinguisher is 75 feet (22.9 meters) or less. [29 CFR 1910.157(d)(2)]
  • Use uniformly spaced standpipe systems or hose stations connected to a sprinkler system installed for emergency use by employees, instead of Class A portable fire extinguishers, provided that such systems meet the respective requirements of 29 CFR 1910.158 or 29 CFR 1910.159, that they provide total coverage of the area to be protected, and that employees are trained at least annually in their use. [29 CFR 1910.157(d)(3)]
  • Distribute portable fire extinguishers for use on Class B fires so that the travel distance for employees to any extinguisher is 50 feet (15.2 meters) or less. [29 CFR 1910.157(d)(4)]
  • Distribute portable fire extinguishers for use on Class C hazards on the appropriate pattern for the existing Class A or Class B hazards. [29 CFR 1910.157(d)(5)]
  • Distribute portable fire extinguishers or other containers of Class D extinguishing agent for employee use so that the travel distance from the combustible metal working area to any  extinguisher is 75 feet (22.9 meters) or less. Portable fire extinguishers for Class D hazards are required in areas where combustible metal powders, flakes, shavings, or similarly sized products are generated at least once every two weeks. [29 CFR 1910.157(d)(6)]




As a small business owner, you MUST:

  • fire-extinguisher-signInspect, maintain, and test all portable fire extinguishers in the workplace. [29 CFR 1910.157(e)(1)]
  • Visually inspect portable extinguishers or hoses monthly. [29 CFR 1910.157(e)(2)]
  • Perform an annual maintenance check on portable fire extinguishers. Stored pressure extinguishers do not require an internal examination. 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. Make the record available to the Assistant Secretary upon request. [29 CFR 1910.157(e)(3)]
  • Empty and maintain dry chemical extinguishers (that require a 12-year hydrostatic test) every six years. Dry chemical extinguishers that have non-refillable disposable containers are exempt from this requirement. When recharging or hydrostatic testing is performed, the six-year requirement begins from that date. [29 CFR 1910.157(e)(4)]
  • Provide alternate equivalent protection when portable fire extinguishers are removed from service for maintenance and recharging. [29 CFR 1910.157(e)(5)]


A small business must:

  • Assure that hydrostatic testing is performed by trained persons with suitable testing equipment and facilities. [29 CFR 1910.157(f)(1)]
  • 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 [29 CFR 1910.157(f)(2)]:
  • Assure that an internal examination of cylinders and shells to be tested is made before the hydrostatic tests in addition to an external visual examination. [29 CFR 1910.157(f)(3)]
Table L-1
Type of extinguishers Test interval (years)
Soda acid (soldered brass shells) (until 1/1/82) *
* 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) *
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
FOOTNOTE: Extinguishers 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)

* Although still included in Table L-1, Soda acid (stainless steel shell) and Cartridge operated water and/or antifreeze extinguishers are now obsolete. [29 CFR 1910.157]

  • 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. [29 CFR 1910.157(f)(4)]
  • Assure that hydrostatic tests are performed on extinguisher hose assemblies that are equipped with a shut-off nozzle at the discharge end of the hose. The test interval must be the same as specified for the extinguisher. [29 CFR 1910.157(f)(5)]
  • Hydrostatically test carbon dioxide hose assemblies with a shut-off nozzle at 1,250 psi (8,620 kPa). [29 CFR 1910.157(f)(6)]
  • Hydrostatically test dry chemical and dry powder hose assemblies with a shut-off nozzle at 300 psi (2,070 kPa). [29 CFR 1910.157(f)(7)] Hose assemblies passing a hydrostatic test do not require any type of recording or stamping. [29 CFR 1910.157(f)(8)]
  • Test hose assemblies for carbon dioxide extinguishers within a protective cage device. [29 CFR 1910.157(f)(9)]
  • Test carbon dioxide extinguishers and nitrogen or carbon dioxide cylinders used with wheeled extinguishers every five years at 5/3 of the service pressure as stamped into the cylinder. Nitrogen cylinders that comply with 49 CFR 173.34(e)(15) may be hydrostatically tested every 10 years. [29 CFR 1910.157(f)(10)]
  • Hydrostatically test stored pressure and Halon 1211 types of extinguishers at the factory test pressure, not to exceed two times the service pressure. [29 CFR 1910.157(f)(11)]
  • Test self-generating type soda acid and foam extinguishers at 350 psi (2,410 kPa). [29 CFR 1910.157(f)(12)]
  • Do not use air or gas pressure for hydrostatic testing. [29 CFR 1910.157(f)(13)]
  • Remove from service extinguisher shells, cylinders, or cartridges that fail a hydrostatic pressure test, or that are not fit for testing. [29 CFR 1910.157(f)(14)]
  • Ensure that the equipment for testing compressed gas type cylinders be of the water jacket type. The equipment must have an expansion indicator that operates with an accuracy within 1 percent of the total expansion or .1cc (.1mL) of liquid. [29 CFR 1910.157(f)(15)(i)]
  • Ensure that the equipment for testing non-compressed gas type cylinders includes the following [29 CFR 1910.157(f)(15)(ii)]:
    • A hydrostatic test pump, hand or power operated, capable of producing at least 150 percent of the test pressure, which must include appropriate check valves and fittings. [29 CFR 1910.157(f)(15)(ii)(A)]
    • A flexible connection for attachment to fittings to test through the extinguisher nozzle, test bonnet, or hose outlet, as is applicable. [29 CFR 1910.157(f)(15)(ii)(B)]
    • A protective cage or barrier for personal protection of the tester, designed to provide visual observation of the extinguisher under test. [29 CFR 1910.157(f)(15)(ii)(C)]
  • 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 must be in the form of a certification record that includes:
    • The date of the test.
    • The signature of the person who performed the test.
    • The serial number, or other identifier, of the fire extinguisher that was tested.

Such records must 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. [29 CFR 1910.157(f)(16)]


For the employees of your business, you must:

  • Provide an educational program to familiarize employees with the general principles of fire extinguisher use and the hazards involved with incipient stage fire fighting. [29 CFR 1910.157(g)(1)] Provide this education when employees are first hired and once a year thereafter. [29 CFR 1910.157(g)(2)]
  • Train employees (who have been designated to use fire fighting equipment in the emergency action plan) in the use of the equipment. [29 CFR 1910.157(g)(3)] Provide this training when employees are first given this assignment and once a year thereafter. [29 CFR 1910.157(g)(4)]

Fire Extinguisher Inspections

Regular maintenance and inspections of your portable fire extinguishers will provide assurance that they will operate effectively and safely if they are needed. [29 CFR 1910.157(c)(4)]

fire-extinguisher-properInspect all extinguishers at least once a month. Use the following checklist as a guide.

  1. Is each extinguisher in its designated place, clearly visible, and not blocked by equipment, coats or other objects that could interfere with access during an emergency?
  2. Is the nameplate with operating instructions legible and facing outward?
  3. Is the pressure gauge showing that the extinguisher is fully charged (the needle should be in the green zone)?
  4. Is the pin and tamper seal intact?
  5. Is the extinguisher in good condition and showing no signs of physical damage, corrosion, or leakage?
  6. Have all dry powder extinguishers been gently rocked top to bottom to make sure the powder is not packing?


NOTE: If you did not answer yes to all of these questions, have the extinguisher fixed or replaced immediately!

If you want to learn more about Fire Extinguishers, check out OSHA’s full guidelines on fire extinguishers.

The following photos are of fire extinguishers out of compliance, do you have any in your workplace like the following?

Missing seal
Missing seal
This fire extinguisher is in violation by sitting on the ground.
This fire extinguisher is in violation by sitting on the ground.
Can you identify what is wrong here?
Can you identify what is wrong here?

Fire Extinguishers: Placement and Selection

To avoid putting workers in danger, fire extinguishers should be located throughout the workplace and readily accessible in the event of a fire. [29 CFR 1910.157(c)] You can usually find them in hallways, laundry rooms, meeting rooms, kitchens, mechanical/electrical rooms, and near exit doors.

Selection and Placement of Fire Extinguishers

If employees use portable fire extinguishers, they must be selected and positioned based on the potential type and size of fire that can occur. [29 CFR 1910.157(d)(1)] The following guidelines will help you identify the number and types of portable fire extinguishers you should have.

Type of Fire

Size and Spacing

Class A The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends that locations such as offices, classrooms, and assembly halls that contain mainly Class A combustible materials have one 2-A extinguisher for every 3,000 square feet. [Standard for Portable Fire Extinguishers (NFPA 10 (2010), Table, Fire Extinguisher Size and Placement for Class A Hazards)].

OSHA requires that all employees have access to an extinguisher within 75 feet travel-distance. [29 CFR 1910.157(d)(2)]

NOTE: Uniformly spaced standpipe systems or hose stations connected to a sprinkler system for emergency use can be used instead of Class A portable fire extinguishers, if they meet the respective requirements of 29 CFR 1910.158 or 29 CFR 1910.159, provide total coverage of the area to be protected, and employees are trained at least annually in their use. [29 CFR 1910.157(d)(3)]

Class B Locations that contain Class B flammables, such as workshops, storage areas, research operations, garages, warehouses, or service and manufacturing areas requires that all employees have access to an extinguisher within 50 feet travel-distance. [29 CFR 1910.157(d)(4)]




Light (Low) – Small amounts of flammable liquids used for copy machines, art departments, etc., that are stored safely and kept in closed containers.





Ordinary (Moderate) – The total amount of flammable liquids are present in greater amounts than expected under low-hazard locations. This can include garages, workshops, or support service areas.





Extra (High) – Locations where flammable liquids are present and used in large quantities. This includes areas used for storage, production, woodworking (finishing), vehicle repair, aircraft and boat servicing, or where painting, dipping, and coating, operations are performed with flammable liquids.





(Adapted from Standard for Portable Fire Extinguishers, NFPA 10 (2010), Table, Fire Extinguisher Size and Placement for Class B Hazards)
Class C Class C extinguishers are required where energized electrical equipment is used. The extinguisher size and spacing is based on its Class A or B hazard. [29 CFR 1910.157(d)(5)]
Class D Locations where combustible metal powders, flakes, shavings, or similarly sized materials are generated at least once every two weeks must install Class D portable fire extinguishers not more then 75 feet from the hazard. [29 CFR 1910.157(d)(6)]
Class K Locations where potential fire hazards from combustible cooking media (vegetable or animal oils and fats) exist must install Class K extinguishers at a maximum travel distance of 30 feet. [NFPA 10, Standard for Portable Fire Extinguishers. See Section 6.6, Installations for Class K Hazards]

Installation of Fire Extinguishers:

Up to 5' Bracket, 3.5'To prevent fire extinguishers from being moved or damaged, they should be mounted on brackets or in wall cabinets with the carrying handle placed 3-1/2 to 5 feet above the floor. Larger fire extinguishers need to be mounted at lower heights with the carrying handle about 3 feet from the floor.

Before installing any portable fire extinguisher, check the label to be sure it is approved by a nationally recognized testing laboratory. [29 CFR 1910.157(c)(2)]

Read more about OSHA’s Fire Extinguisher Guidelines

Prohibited Fire Extinguishers:

The following types of portable fire extinguishers are considered dangerous and should NEVER be used:

Old Extinguisher having a shell construction of copper or brass

  1. Any extinguisher having a shell construction of copper or brass joined by soft solder and/or rivets.
  2. Any extinguisher that must be turned upside down to rupture a cartridge or to start an uncontrollable pressure generating chemical reaction to expel the agent. [29 CFR 1910.157(c)(5)] This includes:
    • Soda acid
    • Foam
    • Water-cartridge
    • Loaded stream cartridge
  3. Extinguishers that use chlorobromomethane (Halon 1011) or carbon tetrachloride as an extinguishing agent. These agents are toxic and carbon tetrachloride may cause cancer and can produce phosgene gas (used as a chemical weapon during World War I) when used on electrical fires. [29 CFR 1910.157(c)(3)]

Fire Extinguisher Basics

To understand how a fire extinguisher works, you need to understand a little about fire. Fire is a very rapid chemical reaction between oxygen and a combustible material, which results in the release of heat, light, flames, and smoke.

Fire Triangle

Heat, Oxygen, FuelFor fire to exist, the following four elements must be present at the same time:

  • Enough oxygen to sustain combustion.
  • Enough heat to raise the material to its ignition temperature.
  • Some sort of fuel or combustible material.
  • The chemical reaction that is fire.

How a Fire Extinguisher Works:

Portable fire extinguishers apply an extinguishing agent that will either cool burning fuel, displace or remove oxygen, or stop the chemical reaction so a fire cannot continue to burn. When the handle of an extinguisher is compressed, agent is expelled out the nozzle.

Fire extinguisher labels explained, Underwriter's Laboratories and the UL logo, listed, dry chemical fire extinguisher, classification 1-A:10-BCAll portable fire extinguishers must be approved by a nationally recognized testing laboratory Safety Pin, Nozzle, Handle, Pressure gauge, Tube, High Pressure Gas Canister, Dry Chemical, Carbon Dioxide, or Water to verify compliance with applicable standards. [29 CFR 1910.157(c)(2)] Equipment that passes the laboratory’s tests are labeled and given an alpha-numeric classification based on the type and size of fire it will extinguish.

Let’s take a look at the label pictured. The classification is:


The letters (A, B, and C) represent the type(s) of fire for which the extinguisher has been approved.

The number in front of the A rating indicates how much water the extinguisher is equal to and represents 1.25 gallons of water for every unit of one. For example, a 4-A rated extinguisher would be equal to five (4 x 1.25) gallons of water.

The number in front of the B rating represents the area in square feet of a class B fire that a non-expert user should be able to extinguish. Using the above example, a non-expert user should be able to put out a flammable liquid fire that is as large as 10 square feet.

Don’t forget to inspect your fire extinguishers, learn how to here.

Types of Fire Extinguishers

Different types of fire extinguishers are designed to fight different types of fire. The three most common types of fire extinguishers are: air pressurized water, CO2 (carbon dioxide), and dry chemical. The following table provides information regarding the type of fire and which fire extinguisher should be used.

Extinguisher Type

Type of Fire

Water Extinguisher


Ordinary Combustibles

Fires in paper, cloth, wood, rubber, and many plastics require a water type extinguisher labeled A.

Class A Logo
Carbon Dioxide Extinguisher, fire extinguisher basics



Dry Chemical Extinguisher

Dry Chemical

Flammable Liquids

Fires in oils, gasoline, some paints, lacquers, grease, solvents, and other flammable liquids require an extinguisher labeled B.

Class B logo

Electrical Equipment

Fires in wiring, fuse boxes, energized electrical equipment, computers, and other electrical sources require an extinguisher labeled C.

Class C Logo

Extinguisher Type

Type of Fire

Multi-purpose Extinguisher


Ordinary Combustibles, Flammable Liquids, or Electrical Equipment

Multi-purpose dry chemical is suitable for use on class A, B, and C.

Class A, B, and C Logos

Class D


Fires involving powders, flakes or shavings of combustible metals such as magnesium, titanium, potassium, and sodium require special extinguishers labeled D.

Class K

Kitchen Fires

Fires involving combustible cooking fluids such as oils and fats.

Class K Logo

NOTE: Your present fire extinguishing equipment may not put out a fire involving vegetable oil in your deep fat fryer.

Read OSHA’s Fire Extinguisher Guidelines here


Common Fire Extinguishers for small businesses

Water – Air-pressurized Water Extinguishers (APW)

Water Extinguisher

Water is one of the most commonly used extinguishing agents for type A fires. You can recognize an APW by its large silver container. They are filled about two-thirds of the way with ordinary water, then pressurized with air. In some cases, detergents are added to the water to produce a foam. They stand about two to three feet tall and weigh approximately 25 pounds when full.

APWs extinguish fire by cooling the surface of the fuel to remove the “heat” element of the fire triangle.

APWs are designed for Class A (wood, paper, cloth, rubber, and certain plastics) fires only.

Class A only Label


  • Never use water to extinguish flammable liquid fires. Water is extremely ineffective at extinguishing this type of fire and may make matters worse by the spreading the fire.
  • Never use water to extinguish an electrical fire. Water is a good conductor and may lead to electrocution if used to extinguish an electrical fire. Electrical equipment must be unplugged and/or de-energized before using a water extinguisher on an electrical fire.

CO2 or Dry Chemical – Carbon Dioxide Extinguishers

Carbon Dioxide Extinguisher

This type of extinguisher is filled with Carbon Dioxide (CO2), a non-flammable gas under extreme pressure. These extinguishers put out fires by displacing oxygen, or taking away the oxygen element of the fire triangle. Because of its high pressure, when you use this extinguisher pieces of dry ice shoot from the horn, which also has a cooling effect on the fire.

You can recognize this type of extinguisher by its hard horn and absent pressure gauge.

CO2 cylinders are red and range in size from five to 100 pounds or larger.

CO2 extinguishers are designed for Class B and C (flammable liquid and electrical) fires only.

Class B and C Label


  • CO2 is not recommended for Class A fires because they may continue to smolder and re-ignite after the CO2 dissipates.
  • Never use CO2 extinguishers in a confined space while people are present without proper respiratory protection.


Carbon dioxide extinguishers will frequently be found in industrial vehicles, mechanical rooms, offices, computer labs, and flammable liquid storage areas.

Multi-purpose – Dry Chemical Extinguishers

Dry Chemical Extinguisher

Dry chemical extinguishers put out fires by coating the fuel with a thin layer of fire retardant powder, separating the fuel from the oxygen. The powder also works to interrupt the chemical reaction, which makes these extinguishers extremely effective.

Dry chemical extinguishers are usually rated for class B and C fires and may be marked multiple purpose for use in A, B, and C fires. They contain an extinguishing agent and use a compressed, non-flammable gas as a propellant.

ABC fire extinguishers are red in color, and range in size from five pounds to 20 pounds.

Dry Chemical extinguishers will have a label indicating they may be used on class A, B, and/or C fires.

Class A, B, or C Label or Class B or C only label


These extinguishers will be found in a variety of locations including: public hallways, laboratories, mechanical rooms, break rooms, chemical storage areas, offices, commercial vehicles, and other areas with flammable liquids.

To learn more about how to locate and place your fire extinguishers, check out this post


Corporate Volunteering Leads to Engaged Employees

Many companies have employee volunteer programs, but for many companies in Europe, Canada and the US these programs are underfunded, underdeveloped and underutilized. This article is meant to offer a compelling reason why your business needs to invest (a bit more) in employee volunteering. This is also a great opportunity to make people aware of your Security Company by having the employees wear t-shirts with your security company logo, as well as it makes people aware of your commitment to the local community.

Employee Engagement: The Direct Connection to Business Success

The evidence supporting the importance of employee engagement is incontrovertible. Beyond the reports and analysis, even common sense will tell you that an engaged workforce is important to a company’s well-being and profitability.

But let’s start with the bad news – According to a recent Scarlett Survey, on average, it’s safe to assume that at least 31% of your employees are disengaged. Worse yet, 4% of those who are disengaged are probably hostile. That means that they are speaking poorly of your company to all their friends and family and most likely stealing office supplies. (Seriously.)

On the other hand, according to Gallup, companies with high levels of employee engagement enjoy a significant uplift of every business performance number. Gallup performed a meta-analysis across 199 studies covering 152 organizations, 44 industries, and 26 countries. They discovered that for companies where employees were more engaged than not, their profitability jumped by 16%. Not only that, general productivity was 18% higher than other companies. Customer loyalty was 12% higher and quality jumped up by an incredible 60%. (Harvard Business Review)

corporate volunteeringBut What’s the Connection Between Employee Engagement and Volunteering?

First, it’s important to establish that there is, in fact, a connection. In Ireland, a recent study found that 87% of employees who volunteered with their companies reported an improved perception of their employer. More importantly, a whopping 82% felt more committed to the organization they worked for.

In another study conducted by Volunteer Match and United Healthcare entitled “Do Good Live Well Study Reviewing the Benefits of Volunteering”, researchers found that employees who volunteer through their workplace report more positive attitudes towards their employer as well as colleagues. An interesting benefit to employers is the improved physical and emotional health of employees who volunteer. That means that if companies want to decrease their health costs, they should be looking to volunteering as an affordable and accessible solution.

Check Out: Company Culture

Why is There a Connection Between Employee Engagement and Volunteering?

Specifically, employee volunteering programs increase engagement levels at work when it connects to an individual’s need for meaning and accomplishment. This was first demonstrated in 1968 when Frederick Herzberg article “One More Time, How Do You Motivate Employees?” was published. The article was so popular, that by 1987 it was the most requested article from the Harvard Business Review having sold 1.2 million reprints.

Frederick Herzberg, was a psychologist who suggested that, based on his data, what made people happy at work was not the same thing as what made people unhappy at work. What makes us unhappy at work is lousy pay, lousy work conditions (like your cubicle space or no windows), and a lousy boss. If you fix those it makes a better working condition but it actually won’t make you happy at work.

What makes you happy at work are things like achievement, recognition, more responsibility, the chance to advance, personal growth, etc. These concepts all have to do with personal fulfillment and our humanity. When a company takes time to formally offer an opportunity to get involved in community, what they’re doing is creating the right kind of space for people to express their personal interests and personal desires that go beyond what they’re doing as part of the company. And so it integrates their life inside that building, or that assembly line, or those sales calls with the rest of the world.

If you are more satisfied with who you are as a person, you simply do better in life. People with a purpose outperform those of us wandering around wondering what it all means. Companies that are able to connect people to passions and interests where they feel they’re making a significant contribution as a human being, will see a direct correlation to significant benefits. Assuming it’s true that employee engagement is increased through volunteering, the business benefit is crystal clear. Companies satisfied with low participation rates or only annual activities, are missing huge financial benefits.

Check Out: 7 Ways to Build Trust – The Vital Ingredient of Your Safety Culture

How Huge is Corporate Volunteering?

According to the 2008/2009 study, Driving Business Results Through Continuous Engagement by WorkUSA, companies with engaged employees experience 26% higher revenue per employee, 13% total higher total returns to shareholders, and a 50% higher market premium.

Think about it. What is your company’s earnings per employee? Microsoft’s is currently at $244,831 per employee. Increasing that number by 26% equals a $63,656.06 increase in revenue per employee. To ignore that potential would be bad business.

SO, you have read this article and now are thinking about what sort of employee volunteering activities your company could do. My best advice on that is to partner with a larger volunteer organization, like Habitat for Humanity, or a local soup kitchen. That way you have ample volunteer activities with minimal investment and get to provide a great service to the local community.

This is also a great time for basic brand recognition, by providing your employees with branded t-shirts with your security guard company’s logo, so people see you are committed to your local community.

Improve your Security Guard Services in 5 Steps

When companies secure security guard services, they have a picture in mind of what their contract security force should look like, but too often what they end up with is not what they wanted. What is often the case is that while the security guard company may have the capability to meet the expectations, what they are often lacking is proper corporate security management. A site security manager provided by the contract security company, will be in charge of managing the security guards to the contract standards, but they are accountable to the contract security company at the end of the day. Employing a corporate security manager, there will be someone who is looking out for the company’s interests, and managing security through ongoing quality control reviews, as well as keeping the physical security procedures up to date.

Security guard companies are different from any other vendor that a company usually employs. If you hire a painter, you can see whether or not they are doing their jobs by looking at the walls. But when you hire a security guard company, how often can you see whether the guard company is doing their job which includes running background checks and drug screenings, providing good training for the guards, and effectively monitoring and supervising the guards. In most instances they probably are, but it is important to implement a system of verification and quality control of physical security management. A solid base for monitoring security guard services is a ensuring you have essential security policies in place. When you have that accomplished, you next need to follow the following 5 steps to improve your security guard services.




How to Improve Your Security Guard Services in 5 steps

1) Screen Your Guards Qualifications

In many states, security guards are mandated to have a specified amount of training before they can begin working as security guards. If your state is one of these states, ensure that your security guard company is compliant, do not just accept their word, ask for copies of the certificates.

If you are in a state where there are no state requirements for guard certification, then investigate the type of training that is being provided by your security company and ask yourself does it seem adequate. Doing this step during the contract negotiation means, if you find the security guard training inadequate, you can ask for more training or find a company that provides the level of security you are seeking.

Additionally, is your security guard company performing background and drug screenings on all your guards BEFORE they send them to your property? If they are, they should be providing you with verification. If not, why?

2) Assess Guard Training

Although most security guard companies have a very thorough orientation that introduces each guard to their company, in many cases the guard’s orientation to his assigned property is not as complete. We call the orientation for the assigned property “Site Specific Training”. Find out what your site specific training looks like:

  • Does it occur at your property?
    • Who does the training?
    • How long is each new officer trained?
    • How long does the security company double bank? (Double banking is the process of having a veteran guard working at the same time as the new guard.)
    • How thoroughly are your post orders explained?

Corporate security management would be the ideal position to conduct this “Site Specific Training”, as they know the physical security procedures of the site, as well as the security policy.

Unsure of how to assess your guard training? Check out this post on Security Company Resource Center to help you better understand it.

3) Review Your Guard’s Supervision

Improve security guard services
Image courtesy of

Guard supervision is one of the more important factors of good security guard service. When security companies provide poor supervision, there is not enough emphasis placed on preventing mistakes, problems, and complaints. Lack of supervision also removes the opportunity for the guard to learn and better understand their duties. If the guards are not being supervised, they begin to feel that their work is not important and they begin to see themselves as less of a part of the security team. When guards do not feel like part of your team it typically leads to unacceptable practices such as unprofessional behavior, tardiness, and even theft.

Depending on the structure of your contract, on-site supervisors may not be included. If your contract does not require on-site supervision, how does your security guard company remotely supervise its guards? Outside of the normal security company field supervisor spot checks, the two methods of remote supervision that prove most successful are:

  1. Officer Tour Tracking Systems
  2. Officer Check-Ins

If your guards are required to make rounds of your property, then a system for tracking them while on duty is essential. This can be accomplished with a physical security checklist, whether on paper or done electronically.

4) Inspect Your Guards

After hours inspections of your guards are always great ways of finding out exactly what is happening with your security while you are not there. During these inspections, make sure to ask your security guards questions about their duties and responsibilities to ensure that they understand their jobs. In fact, we suggest having your security guards audited regularly, formally (i.e. post inspection) and informally (i.e. secret shopped) by a licensed security consultant as part of your ongoing security program.

5) Meet with your Security Guard Company Regularly

The fifth and easiest step is to regularly meet with your security company. Without providing regular feedback to your security guard company, property managers are missing out on opportunities to achieve incremental increases in efficiency. Topics such as tenant feedback, guard attrition, feedback from any remote supervisory systems, and any security audits should be discussed during these meetings.

Make sure your security policies are set up correctly.

For a professional corporate security manager, these 5 tips should seem commonplace, but many companies overlook them, and just keep switching contract security companies, hoping the next company, will provide solid security management.