Fire extinguishers are a standard feature in many public buildings and private homes. One way to help ensure they will work properly when needed is to follow the federally-mandated inspection schedule. These inspections are supposed to be recorded on a hang tag attached to each fire extinguisher. In addition to a list of the inspections and the dates they were performed, the inspection tags typically include a description of the extinguisher, including the make and model number. Checking to ensure the tags are present and contain accurate, up-to-date information is an important element of most building safety inspections.
Codes and Standards
The primary federal requirements for fire extinguisher inspections are specified by the National Fire Protection Agency in NFPA 10: Standard for Portable Fire Extinguishers. Additional standards are contained in OSHA and state codes. Despite variations in the style of fire extinguishers and the fire-suppression materials they contain, NFPA 10 requires all portable extinguishers to undergo four primary categories of inspections: monthly, annual maintenance, six-year and periodic hydrostatic materials inspections. All inspections must be recorded on one or more tags on the fire extinguisher; it is advisable to keep a separate inspection log as well.
Monthly Visual Inspections
Monthly and annual inspections are the best ways to ensure your fire extinguisher operates effectively and is stored and mounted properly. The monthly inspections are visual only and can be performed by the homeowner or a company's maintenance or safety personnel. These inspections ensure the extinguisher is undamaged, the hose is not blocked, the safety seal is unbroken and the operating instructions are legible. They also include a check of the pressure gauge to verify the device is fully charged. The month and year of these inspections, along with the initials of the person performing them, are recorded on the extinguisher's hang tag.
Fire extinguishers Inspection
Annual inspections are more thorough and must be done and certified by a professional, since annual maintenance must include an examination of the mechanical parts, the fire-suppression agent and the delivery system. The certification of these inspections must be recorded on the fire extinguisher tag, including the inspection date and the inspector's initials.
Six-year maintenance inspections are much like the annual inspections. The main difference is that during the six-year inspections, stored-pressure fire extinguishers are emptied of contents. A licensed professional must examine the mechanics, outlet hose and delivery system, after which the extinguisher is refilled, re-pressurized and marked with a tamper-resistant seal. These six-year inspections must be recorded on the regular hang tag and on a separate metallic label attached to the body of the extinguisher. Notations must include the month and date of the inspection, as well as the inspector's name and company affiliation.
Hydrostatic materials inspections are required at varying intervals. Five-year inspections are required for all pressurized water, carbon dioxide and wet-chemical extinguishers, while dry-chemical extinguishers must be inspected every 12 years. These inspections use water or another fluid to pressurize the extinguisher cylinder to verify it still meets factory standards. Hydrostatic inspections must be carried out by professionals with particular training in handling the fire-extinguishing agents. They must recharge and seal the extinguisher as soon as the hydrostatic testing is done. Five-year and 12-year inspections are recorded on the hang tag and the permanently attached metal tag on the cylinder. Inspectors must note the date, their name and company affiliation, the fire extinguisher's pressure level and the extinguishing agent used.