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How to Inspect Your Fire Extinguishers

An average homeowner doesn’t pay much attention to the fire extinguishers until they need one. However, when they see flames rising, they rush to grab one to douse the fire.  While a fire extinguisher is crucial to saving lives, it is useless if it isn’t working properly. Moreover, there’s no point in installing a fire extinguisher in the premises if the employees don’t know how to operate the equipment correctly.

There’s nothing worse being stuck in a fire and discovering that the fire extinguisher is non-functional. Proper maintenance is crucial for effective fire fighting. And timely inspection plays a vital role here.

Regular inspection of your portable fire extinguisher is important to protect your home or business. OSHA codes for fire extinguishers mandate that inspection must be carried out as per specified regulations. So, if you are wondering how to inspect your fire extinguishers, here is a complete testing guide for optimal regulatory compliance.

So, let us show you how to inspect your fire extinguishers and be safe!

Types of Fire Extinguishers

Every fire extinguisher is not the same. Each device is made to douse a particular type of fire. Before we guide you on how to inspect your fire extinguishers, it is essential to the device type and model. The United States Fire Administration classifies them as per types of fires namely:

  • Class A: Wood, paper, and cloth fires
  • Class B: Flammable liquids
  • Class C: Electrical fires
  • Class D: Metallic
  • Class K: Cooking oils

Many devices douse multiple fire types, and hence they are classified as ‘BC type’ and ‘AB-type’. Most homes will do fine with Class A or Class K type devices. Commercial premises, on the other hand, may require multiple types depending on the industrial operations.

Fire Extinguisher Inspection

Regular maintenance ensures perfectly operating equipment during a critical fire emergency. It is the responsibility of the homeowner or the company authorities to undertake timely checks. As a rule of thumb, a simple equipment check must be done every 30 days. For a start, locate the extinguisher and check for these three queries:

  • Is fire extinguisher installed in the correct place?
  • Is it visible to the potential user?
  • Is the pressure gauge showing correct reading

Once you answer these three questions, it is time to move towards the next relevant checks. All units must be installed at their proper locations and within reach. There must not be any obstruction in accessing and operating the device. The tamper seals and pins should be in the correct shape. The pressure gauge must display appropriate charge status. A fire extinguisher lasts for 10 to 15 years. Check the age on the attached status tag during the inspection.

Check for any visible marks that may indicate tampering or damage of any sort. A qualified technician must be engaged to address any such concerns. For example, if a unit is damaged or discharged, a professional must replace or repair it accordingly.

Regular Fire Extinguisher Inspection

The National Fire Protection Association lists the following steps while inspecting a fire extinguisher:

  1. Ensure Easy Access – A fire extinguisher must be installed at a visible and accessible at short notice. There must be nothing blocking the access.
  2. Check the Pressure – Almost every device has a pressure gauge that indicates the current pressure and charge status. If a device sports test indicator button, press it to ensure proper pressure reading.
  3. Detect any Physical Damage – All the components including hose, metal container, nozzle, pressure gauge must be defect-free. Check for rust or dent marks that may hamper operation. Checks must be documented on the maintenance history tag attached to the device.
  4. Clean the Extinguisher – Wipe the device clean at regular intervals. Use oil and grease for moving parts. Hose end must be cleaned, so that fire extinguishing agent flows smoothly.

OSHA Fire Extinguisher Inspection Check

A certified OSHA inspector will help you comply with several official recommendations, including:

  • Only approved fire extinguisher models are installed on the premises.
  • Install and mount portable fire extinguishers for quick access in an emergency.
  • Avoid the installation of devices containing Chlorobromomethane and Carbon Tetrachloride as extinguishing agents.
  • Ensure proper maintenance, inspection, and repairs of every fire extinguisher installed in the premises.
  • Identify and remove riveted shell self-generating acid or foam type portable fire extinguishers that generate uncontrollable pressure and chemical reaction.

Monthly Fire Extinguisher Inspections

OSHA (29 CFR) states that a general visual inspection of portable fire extinguishers must be performed at least once per month. Homeowners are also advised to follow a similar routine. A visual inspection should cover crucial checks, such as:

  • The extinguisher is installed at its designated location
  • There are no visible signs of any damage including leakage, hose leakage, corrosion or dents
  • Equipment is easily accessible with no obstruction
  • The equipment is fully charged and operational

Annual Fire Extinguisher Inspection

A complete maintenance check must be conducted every year as per OSHA 29 CFR 1910. It entails a thorough equipment examination plus repairs according to NFPA 10(98). A professional certified fire protection company must be engaged for the said purpose. They ensure optimal compliance with OSHA safety standards. Any defects are repaired or equipment replaced following the regulatory guidelines to avoid any potentially dangerous situation.

After the annual maintenance check, the professional will tag the equipment with an appropriate dated inspection tag. The tag will display all the relevant fire safety information about the equipment and will be valid for one year from the date of issue.

Internal Maintenance Inspection – 5, 6 or 12 Year Hydrostatic Testing

A certified fire protection company must perform internal maintenance as per schedule. It involves the complete discharge of the fire extinguisher, thorough device examination, repair and finally recharging. The internal examination schedule depends on the fire extinguisher category.

For example, dry-chemical type extinguisher must undergo a 12 year hydrostatic test and a 6 year internal inspection.  CO2, water and wet chemical type models require hydrostatic testing every 5 years.