As a business owner, chances are good you are familiar with a portable fire extinguisher. Easy to access, functioning fire extinguishers are an integral part of any fire safety plan. Ensuring fire extinguishers are free of damage and able to properly function is a task that is looked at as a team endeavor.

Routine Monthly Inspections

Fire extinguishers must be checked regularly, usually on a monthly schedule. These efforts are simply to determine if there are any obvious defects or missing equipment.

The monthly inspection is much different from a thorough annual maintenance. A business may elect to handle monthly inspections in-house with the help of internal staff.  On the other hand, it is not unusual to hire a professional for these monthly inspections for larger or more complex projects.

Monthly inspections must be documented for the date and who performed the check, as well as listing any issues that were found. This helps to document that your business followed code requirements and also records what (if any) deficiencies were found.

Some of the important things to be checking for include:

  • Fire extinguishers are all present and in their proper locations
  • Units are easy to identify and not obstructed
  • Pins and tamper seals are in place
  • Pressure gauges are indicating a full charge
  • No visible damage or evidence of tampering

Any issues that are identified should be addressed by a qualified service technician. If a unit has been damaged or discharged, for one reason or another, the unit needs to be repaired or recharged by a professional. Minor fixes, including installing fire extinguisher signs or rearranging furniture to create easier access, can be handled in-house.

Annual Maintenance

Annual fire extinguisher maintenance must be performed by a certified professional. Fire codes clearly specify a certification and testing program that is required in order for an individual to qualify as an approved fire extinguisher service technician. A qualified service technician will possess a certification document, as a record of his or her credentials.  Typically, the certification must be renewed every 3 years.

The annual fire extinguisher maintenance is required by code to keep your business in line with current regulations. If monthly fire extinguisher checks have been done properly and on schedule, there shouldn’t be any major issues or surprises in your annual service.

When you hire a professional to conduct a formal fire extinguisher inspection, the inspector will:

  1. Check for proper sizes, types, quantity and placement of fire extinguishers. Ensure that each fire extinguisher is properly mounted, conspicuously located, not obstructed by objects and readily available for use in case of a fire.
  2. Make sure the instruction label is legible and facing outward.
  3. Check to be sure the extinguisher is fully pressurized, and/or at its full charged weight. Make sure the fire extinguisher hose is intact and free from obstruction.
  4. Operate the pull pin or locking device and install a new tamper seal. Check for dents, corrosion or other signs of damage.
  5. Look for any modifications to the fire extinguisher that could possibly reduce its functionality.
  6. Verify that the extinguisher is current on all internal maintenance and pressure testing requirements.
  7. Attach an updated tag or label as a record of proper maintenance.

Testing, Repair & Recharging

Every fire extinguisher unit also must have internal maintenance and pressure tests performed at certain intervals. Most fire extinguishers need a breakdown and/or pressure test every 5 or 6 years.  The pressure test is called hydrostatic testing, and ensures the integrity of the tank itself, which is constantly under pressure.

Your certified fire safety professional will have access to genuine replacement parts and recharge agents for many different units.

The Bottom Line

Servicing and maintaining fire extinguisher units are not only required by code with guidelines from the NFPA, they also establish good practice in identifying small issues before they become big problems. Monthly maintenance checks help to keep your company in compliance with code and aware of the status of your fire safety tools.

Annual inspections and corrective maintenance should always be performed by a certified professional fire safety inspection company. By finding a professional you can trust, your fire extinguishers will be in top working condition should you ever need them.

Are the service technicians you are working with properly trained and certified?  If not, who might be liable in the event of a loss or injury?  Protect yourself and shed liability. Request credentials and keep copies on file as evidence that you’re hiring qualified professionals.

As an experienced fire protection company for three generations, you know you can trust our knowledgeable service professionals to bring your fire extinguisher inspections and maintenance up to date.