Cal OSHA and Fire Extinguishers

Consider this scenario. An electrical fire breaks out in the kitchen. You run to get the fire extinguisher, you aim it at the base of the fire and nothing happens. It seems the extinguisher has not been checked and/or charged since it was mounted on the wall. You can imagine the possible consequences. Fortunately, this scenario is easily avoidable. Here is some pertinent information that we hope will assist you in being prepared for a fire on your property.

We have consulted with Martha, a Cal OSHA representative from the San Diego office, and we would like to pass on her feedback. The first comment she had was that all facilities that have employees, regardless of capacity, are required to comply with the same requirements. For example, a six bed RCFE must comply with the same requirements as a 200 bed community related to fire extinguisher maintenance and training. It is a Cal OSHA requirement that all fire extinguishers must be checked annually, recharged if necessary, and retagged. It is a Cal OSHA requirement that you maintain documentation that shows this is done each year. In addition, all extinguishers must be checked by you or your designee every month, looking for signs that they may not function properly, e.g., a broken hose. It is a Cal OSHA requirement that you maintain documentation that shows this is done each month. Although it is a Cal OSHA requirement that documentation must be maintained for at least one year, the Cal OSHA representative recommends keeping documentation as well as old fire extinguisher tags for longer than that. She stated that if a court case developed, all documentation will help you support your case that you have been in compliance with the requirements.

In addition, all staff that is expected to use a fire extinguisher in an emergency are initially trained on proper use, as well as, annually after that. There are many resources for appropriate training materials. Document the training each and every time it is done!

The following is a portion of Cal OSHA Section 6151e that discusses portable fire extinguishers. You may go to to view the entire section.

Excerpt from Section 6151e:

(e) Inspection, Maintenance and Testing.

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

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

(3) Portable fire extinguishers shall be 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 Chief upon request.

(g) Training and Education.

(1) 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.

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

We would also like to urge providers to take advantage of the free service offered by Cal/OSHA Consultation Services. This is a non-enforcement branch of Cal OSHA and is there to help you. For more information, go to

Special Thanks!

Thank you to all who have responded to our Tuesday Tips including the latest regarding fire extinguisher maintenance. We appreciate your excellent feedback and sharing of your expertise. In just the few short weeks that we have been sending the Tuesday Tips, some great dialogs have begun and we have all learned new information. Let’s keep it going! If you are not receiving the Tuesday Tip each week by email, please see our website ( to be added.

Glen Coulter
AHS Solutions for the Assisted Living Provider”
Advanced Healthcare Studies, LLC

One Response to “Cal OSHA and Fire Extinguishers”

  1. Fire extinguishers are a recommended safety product that everyone is encouraged to own. They can be helpful in the home, the car, your office, anywhere that a fire is possible. And, they are only helpful if they work. An annual check is good, more frequiently is better. Amy

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