Employers must provide portable fire extinguishers in your workplace. Inspect and test all portable fire extinguishers. Make sure that portable fire extinguishers are kept fully charged, in operable condition, and left in their designated place(s). Employees must be trained on proper use of portable fire extinguishers either through “use” or “awareness” training.

  • Use Training: employees practice with training fire props
  • Awareness Training: employees are told how to use the equipment

WAC 296-800-300 summarizes the requirements for portable fire extinguishers including details on exemptions. Your local fire marshall also enforces fire codes which address fire safety that are more comprehensive and may go beyond Washington Industrial Safety and Health Act (WISHA) rules.

Remember not all fires are the same, and not all fire extinguishers serve the same purpose. The type of portable fire extinguisher you must have in your workplace depends on the type of fire hazards that exist in your workplace. Employers must provide the correct type of portable fire extinguishers and distribute them in the workplace depending on the type, size, and severity of fire that could occur.

Fire extinguishers receive letter ratings, which correspond to the type of fire the extinguisher can put out. The following table outlines different classes of fire, type of fire, and type of extinguisher.

Common Classes of Fire Extinguishers

Type of Fire
Ordinary combustibles: cloth, paper, rubber, wood
Flammable liquids: gasoline, oils, paint, lacquers
Electrical equipment: energized electrical equipment, fuse boxes, wiring
Flammable cooking liquids: cooking oil, animal or vegetable-based greases
Type of Extinguisher
Water, dry chemical
Dry chemical, carbon dioxide
Dry chemical, carbon dioxide
Wet chemical
Think about the types of fire that are possible in your workplace. What classes of fire extinguishers do you need? Do you have them at your workplace? Once you get the proper portable fire extinguisher(s) in place, make sure to plan for and hold annual training. Employees need to be prepared to use the fire extinguishers if needed.
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