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OSHA Safety Hazard Information Bulletin
on Actuated Fire Extinguishers
December 19, 1988
The Dallas Regional Office has brought to our attention a potential hazard associated with the use of cartridge actuated dry chemical fire extinguishers. In just over two years the Houston Area Office has investigated two fatalities involving a dock laborer and a refinery operations trainee who were both struck by fire extinguishers whose bottoms ruptured after the extinguishers were charged for use. Both extinguishers showed evidence of rust and corrosion. Inspection records were either nonexistent or incomplete in both cases.
The hazardous conditions described above are not limited to cartridge actuated dry chemical fire extinguishers. Most extinguishers operate under internal pressure creating a level of risk to the user if the extinguishers are not properly designed and used. Adequacy of design can be demonstrated by the approval of a recognized testing laboratory as required by 29 CFR 1910.157(c)(2). On the other hand, 29 CFR 1910.157(e) and (f) cover minimum general requirements for portable fire extinguishers that are used under normal circumstances. Additional precautions should be taken in situations such as corrosive environments that could hasten equipment corrosion. Care must also be taken to prevent internal corrosion through proper recharging procedures. See the attached Chapter 3, "Inspection and Maintenance," of Section 20, "Portable Fire Extinguishers," of the National Fire Protection Association Fire Protection Handbook.
Please distribute this bulletin to Area Offices, State Plan States and Consultation Projects.