Fire extinguishers are essential devices that can help prevent the spread of fire and save lives. However, they need to be inspected regularly to ensure they are in good working condition and ready for use in an emergency. In this article, we will explain how to inspect fire extinguishers for safety and compliance, what to look for, how often to do it, and what records to keep.
- Fire extinguishers should be inspected monthly by a competent person and annually by a certified professional.
- Inspection procedures vary depending on the type of fire extinguisher, but generally include checking the location, visibility, accessibility, pressure, weight, condition, and label of the extinguisher.
- Inspection records should be maintained on a tag or label attached to the extinguisher or on paper or electronic files for at least 12 months.
- Fire extinguishers should be replaced or serviced if they are damaged, discharged, expired, or recalled.
Types of Fire Extinguishers and Their Uses
Before we dive into the inspection process, let’s review the different types of fire extinguishers and their uses. Fire extinguishers are classified by the type of fire they can extinguish. There are six main types of fire extinguishers:
|Class of Fire||Description||Suitable Extinguishers|
|A||Fires in ordinary combustible materials, such as wood, cloth, paper, rubber, and many plastics.||Water, foam, water mist, wet chemical|
|B||Fires in flammable liquids, combustible liquids, petroleum greases, tars, oils, oil-based paints, solvents, lacquers, alcohols, and flammable gases.||Foam, CO2, dry powder|
|C||Fires that involve energized electrical equipment.||CO2, dry powder|
|D||Fires in combustible metals, such as magnesium, titanium, zirconium, sodium, lithium, and potassium.||Specialized dry powder|
|K||Fires in cooking appliances that involve combustible cooking media (vegetable or animal oils and fats).||Wet chemical|
|F||Fires involving cooking oils or fats. This is a European classification that is equivalent to Class K in the US.||Wet chemical|
Some fire extinguishers are multipurpose and can be used on more than one class of fire. They are usually labeled with a combination of letters, such as A-B-C or B-C. It is important to choose the right fire extinguisher for the type of fire you are facing. Using the wrong fire extinguisher can make the fire worse or cause injury.
Monthly Inspection Procedures
Fire extinguishers should be inspected monthly by a competent person who knows how to use them and what to look for. The inspection procedures may vary depending on the type of fire extinguisher, but generally include the following steps:
- Make sure the fire extinguisher is located in its designated place.
- Make sure the fire extinguisher is visible or that there is signage indicating where it is located.
- Make sure you can easily access the fire extinguisher and that there is nothing blocking it.
- Ensure the pressure gauge is in the operable range or position. For CO2 fire extinguishers that do not have a gauge, check the weight instead.
- Make sure the fire extinguisher is full by lifting it or weighing it. The weight should match the one indicated on the label.
- Check the condition of the fire extinguisher for any signs of damage, corrosion, leakage, or tampering.
- Check the pull pin and tamper seal to make sure they are intact and secure.
- Check the discharge hose or nozzle to make sure they are not clogged, cracked, or broken.
- Check the label or data plate on the front of the fire extinguisher to make sure it is present and legible. The label should indicate the type of fire extinguisher, its capacity, its expiration date (if applicable), and its operating instructions.
If you find any problems with your fire extinguisher during your monthly inspection, you should report them to your supervisor or maintenance department and have them fixed as soon as possible. Do not use a fire extinguisher that is damaged or defective.
Annual Maintenance Procedures
In addition to monthly inspections by a competent person, fire extinguishers should also be serviced annually by a certified professional who has received specialized training and has access to proper tools and equipment. The annual maintenance procedures include:
- Performing a thorough external examination of the fire extinguisher as described above.
- Performing an internal examination of the fire extinguisher by opening it and inspecting its components for any signs of deterioration or contamination.
- Replacing any parts that are worn, damaged, or expired, such as the extinguishing agent, the valve, the O-ring, or the hose.
- Recharging the fire extinguisher with the appropriate amount and type of extinguishing agent and pressurizing it to the required level.
- Conducting a hydrostatic test on the fire extinguisher to check its structural integrity and resistance to pressure. This test is required every 5 years for water, foam, wet chemical, and CO2 fire extinguishers, and every 12 years for dry powder fire extinguishers.
- Affixing a new tag or label to the fire extinguisher that indicates the date and details of the service.
The annual maintenance of fire extinguishers should be done by a qualified person who follows the manufacturer’s instructions and complies with the relevant standards and regulations. Do not attempt to service your fire extinguisher yourself unless you are authorized and trained to do so.
It is important to keep records of your fire extinguisher inspections and maintenance for safety and compliance purposes. The records should include:
- The date and time of the inspection or service
- The name and signature of the person who performed the inspection or service
- The location and identification number of the fire extinguisher
- The type and size of the fire extinguisher
- The results of the inspection or service, including any problems found and actions taken
The records can be kept on a tag or label attached to the fire extinguisher or on paper or electronic files. The records should be maintained for at least 12 months or longer if required by your local authority. The records should be available for review by your supervisor, auditor, or inspector upon request.
Fire Extinguisher Replacement or Disposal
Sometimes, fire extinguishers may need to be replaced or disposed of if they are:
- Damaged beyond repair
- Discharged partially or fully
- Expired or past their useful life
- Recalled by the manufacturer or regulator
If you need to replace or dispose of your fire extinguisher, you should follow these steps:
- Contact your fire extinguisher supplier or service provider and arrange for a replacement or disposal.
- Do not use or move the fire extinguisher until it is collected by a qualified person.
- Do not throw away the fire extinguisher in the regular trash or recycling bin. It may contain hazardous materials that need to be handled properly.
- Do not puncture, burn, or incinerate the fire extinguisher. It may explode or release toxic gases.
- Keep a record of the replacement or disposal of your fire extinguisher for future reference.
Fire extinguishers are vital devices that can help you fight small fires and protect yourself and others from harm. However, they need to be inspected regularly to ensure they are in good working condition and ready for use in an emergency. By following the steps outlined in this article, you can inspect your fire extinguishers for safety and compliance, keep them in optimal shape, and replace them when necessary. Remember, fire extinguishers are only effective if they are used correctly and promptly. If you are unsure how to use a fire extinguisher or if the fire is too large or dangerous for you to handle, call 911 immediately and evacuate the area. Stay safe!