Before we determine if fire extinguishers require sign placement, let us first see when this question should come up. The governing authority, in this case, is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration or OSHA as we know it.
The above question, “Do fire extinguishers require a sign?”, arises under two given cases:
- OSHA requires the employer to provide portable fire extinguishers.
- The employer chooses, on their own, to install portable fire extinguishers.
You will learn more about sign requirements as you further peruse this article:
Fire Extinguisher Sign Requirements
Under the presence of portable fire extinguishers, as a fundamental guideline, OSHA in their Standard 1910.157(c)(1) states,
“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.”
From the fundamental principle stated above, it’s safe to assume that employers will allow fire extinguishers at the disposal of their employees at all times. The OSHA laws do not specify signage requirements in black and white, but the underlying rule from the above Standard is that extinguishers need to be easy to identify.
Signage is the best way to ensure the identification of portable extinguishers. Hence, the signage requirements originate from the same principle.
Fire extinguisher Sign Laws
By establishing fire extinguisher laws, OSHA aims to maximize labor and other employees’ safety under work conditions. But we don’t get anything specific about signage laws from OSHA whatsoever.
OSHA’s Standard number 1910.157 – Portable fire extinguishers enlists all laws concerning portable fire extinguishers. That is where all fire extinguisher sign protocols come from.
Fire Extinguisher Sign Location
OSHA’s guidelines for portable fire extinguishers emphasize the identifiability of these extinguishers. However, it does not indicate a particular location for extinguisher signages in absolute terms.
But we can get a better idea by relying on National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) that allows further clarity. According to NFPA Standards, you need to “conspicuously mark” fire extinguishers mounted inside cabinets so that they are highly visible even from a distance. NFPA further explains that for large spaces and rooms where visibility issues exist, “means shall be provided to indicate the extinguisher location.”
Fire Extinguisher Sign Height
In their guidelines for fire extinguisher signs, the Federal OSHA regulation 1910.157(c(1) does not specify a particular number as a height requirement for sign placement. Yet again, the only requirement OSHA states is that these signs be identifiable.
At times, you may not be able to see a fire extinguisher sign when you desperately might need to. Such a situation is likely to happen when the area in question is heavily crowded or the nearby shelves have some goods/objects stacked up so high that they hide the sign, making it unlocatable.
Hence, it is best to put the fire extinguisher sign not right over the extinguisher’s top but rather somewhere near the ceiling where everyone can see it even from afar. The position of these signs can be subjective based on worksite dynamics and infrastructure.
Fire Extinguisher Sign Size
We know very well by now that all our signage efforts should aim to maximize the visibility and swift discovery of every fire extinguisher placed in the workspace. Hence, you need to adjust signs’ sizes, which minimize visual obstructions.
The infrastructural dynamics of a given worksite are also the critical determinants of the extinguisher signs’ sizes. For instance, you may deem it suitable to place medium-sized signs for your hospital’s fire extinguishers. But the exact size of signage might become the worst option for a giant power plant with heavy machinery, large labor crowds, high stacks of raw material inventory, and spaces with a lot of frequent hustle and bustle.
Hence, it would be best to keep the area’s dimensions and work conditions in mind while determining the size of your extinguisher’s signs.
Fire Extinguisher Sign Quantity
As far as the sign-quantity is concerned, considering OSHA’s underlying principles, common sense suggests a quantity equal to the number of portable fire extinguishers an employer decides to install in the worksite.
Each extinguisher present without an indicating sign can go useless if no one can find or notice it in times of need and emergency. That’s a loss of resources and effort altogether.
If you look at it from another angle, under all sanity, it’s nearly impossible for one sign to suffice for two or more extinguishers. Duh. It doesn’t make any sense at all. Therefore, the best estimate of extinguisher-sign quantity is the same number as the portable fire extinguishers’ an employer chooses to install.
Fire Extinguisher Sign Design (Colors, Font, etc.)
While you can customize extinguisher signs as per your company’s default themes, design, color, and font scheme to align with your branding goals, the guiding principle is yet again the same. Identifiability!
The color, font, and overall design should maximize visibility. Such a potential definitive guideline for the most suitable sign-design must entail:
- The font size and style must enhance legibility, especially for people standing at a significant distance from the fire extinguisher’s location.
- The color scheme has to be thoroughly conspicuous. Bright and bold colors are the best choice, for that matter. So that people with eyesight issues can at least remotely sense the nearest fire extinguisher as soon as the need arises.
Indeed, countering fire outbreaks calls for a sound fire-fighting action plan and installation of ample extinguishing equipment. But the responsibility does not end just there. It is equally crucial to deploy an excellent indication system. Signage fulfills that responsibility when you design and position your fire extinguisher signs in a way that they are visible and legible, nearly as if something is screaming right into your eyes.
Because fire events are that serious, and to comply with safety protocols has to be your top-most priority as a responsible employer.
Nick Klamecki is a certified Fire and Workplace Safety expert with 15 years experience in product research and testing. He has a degree in Economics from U.C. Davis, is an active outdoorsman and spent years ensuring the safety of special needs children. Nick researches and tests workplace, industrial and safety products and provides advice on their safe use.