- Standard Number:
OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA's website at https://www.osha.gov.
November 29, 2006
Mr. Daniel J. Roberts
Manager, Industrial Safety
Exelon Nuclear, Exelon Corporation
4300 Winfield Road
Warrenville, IL 60555
Dear Mr. Roberts:
Thank you for your letter of June 23, 2006, in which you inquire whether OSHA would agree to reduce the prescribed frequency of inspections for portable fire extinguishers under 29 CFR 1910.157(e)(2) from monthly to quarterly. You asked if a reduction in frequency would be acceptable "provided it was made in accordance with a 'performance based' methodology that provided reasonable assurance that the extinguishers are maintained fully charged and operable, and probable continuance of that condition until the inspection."
In §1910.157, OSHA's standard for portable fire extinguishers used in general industry, paragraph (e) addresses inspection, maintenance, and testing. Paragraph (e)(2) of §1910.157 requires that "[p]ortable extinguishers or hose used in lieu thereof under paragraph (d)(3) of this section shall be visually inspected monthly." In addition, the burden posed by the inspection contemplated by the standard (as defined in §1910.155(c)(27)) is modest: "a visual check of fire protection systems and equipment to ensure that they are in place, charged, and ready for use in the event of a fire." Because the standard already allows some latitude in what an inspection entails, we believe that the prescribed monthly frequency is not only explicit, but reasonable.
We would also note that a monthly inspection requirement is essentially consistent with the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Standard No. 10, "Portable Fire Extinguishers," which states in paragraph 6.2.1 of the 2002 edition that: "Fire extinguishers shall be inspected when initially placed in service and thereafter at approximately 30-day intervals. Fire extinguishers shall be inspected, manually or by electronic monitoring, at more frequent intervals when circumstances require." A similar statement is made in the Annex to NFPA 10 at paragraph A.6.2.1: ". . . [t]he required monthly inspection is minimum. An inspection should be more frequent if any of the following conditions exist. . . ."
Accordingly, in the absence of either a petition for rulemaking, see 29 USC 655(b), or an adequate showing in the context of a variance application, see 29 USC 655(d), we do not believe that a change in the prescribed monthly frequency is justified at this time.
In your letter you note that "NFPA 10 allows alternative approaches acceptable to the authority having jurisdiction" and that your "industry's insurance standards adopted a 'performance-based' analysis method" for setting the frequency of inspection. You are apparently referring to paragraph 1.2.1 in the 2002 edition of NFPA 10, which states, "Nothing in this standard shall be construed as a restriction on new technologies or alternative arrangements, provided that the level of protection as herein described is not lowered and is acceptable to the authority having jurisdiction." In the 2002 edition, Annex A to NFPA 10 (at A.3.2.2) also makes clear, however, that where statutory responsibility for safety is concerned, the term "Authority Having Jurisdiction" refers to a governmental entity. Within the context of your question, OSHA is the relevant "Authority Having Jurisdiction." As paragraph A.3.2.2 also indicates, it is only for "insurance purposes" that an insurance company may sometimes be considered an authority having jurisdiction.
Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health. We hope you find this information helpful. OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards, and regulations. Although our interpretation letters explain these requirements and their application to particular circumstances, they do not create additional obligations upon employers. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed and may not be applicable to any scenario not delineated within your original correspondence. Please note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA's website at http://www.osha.gov. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact the Office of General Industry Enforcement at (202) 693-1850.
Richard E. Fairfax, Director
Directorate of Enforcement Programs