Out of Sight, Out of Mind?
Whether you’re a business or homeowner, fire extinguishers can be easy to forget about. They’re usually tucked away somewhere in the office out of sight, collecting dust, keeping itself out of mind. But as it is often said in boxing, you should “protect yourselves at all times” because there’s nothing more panic-inducing than needing an extinguisher only to discover that it isn’t functioning. With winter kicking into high gear, it’s also that time of year when fire departments across the country see surges in fire-related incidents from both commercial and residential sides. Many business owners believe they are not susceptible to such incidents despite the data showing the opposite. The National Fire Protection Association estimates that each year, there are 90,000-100,000 fires in commercial spaces and businesses across the U.S. This is why fire extinguisher inspection is extremely important. Not only that, when it comes to workplace life safety, OSHA and Fire Codes require mandated procedures for fire extinguishers. Below is a compilation of essential action items to ensure optimal safety and compliance.
Visual inspections – Once per Month
According to OSHA [29 CFR 1910.157(e)(2), employers are required to perform a visual inspection on fire extinguishers once per month. This ensures your extinguisher is still present in its designated location, no physical damage is visible, there are no physical obstructions that are making it inaccessible, and above all, is fully charged and operational. Clear signs of physical damage include: corrosion, leakage, and/or dents. Check the pressure gauge to make sure it is in the operating range. Make sure the pull-pin is in place and the seal is unbroken. Lastly, log your monthly inspections through documentation. Be sure to date and initial the back of the extinguisher tag.
Full maintenance check – Once per year
Business owners are required to perform a full maintenance check on their workplace’s life safety equipment once per year, according to OSHA 29 CFR 1910.157(e)(3). This means a comprehensive inspection and repair(as needed) of all fire extinguishers, as mandated in NFPA 10(98), Sec. 4-4. These annual fire extinguisher maintenance inspections must be performed by a professional fire protection company as they have the tools and certified training to ensure compliance while identifying and fixing any potentially hazardous damages. Upon the completion and passing of a fire extinguisher inspection, it is then verified with a dated inspection tag.
Internal maintenance and inspection – Every 5 years (wet), 12 years (dry)
As stated above, internal maintenance and inspection, too, requires the services of a fire protection company. Internal maintenance and inspection involves discharging of the fire extinguisher and a comprehensive examination of the internals of your extinguisher and recharging to ensure all components are working correctly. At fixed intervals, cylinders on your extinguishers must also be hydrostatically tested to ensure they are able to contain the pressure used to discharge the agent. Wet systems that utilize pressurized water, carbon dioxide, and wet chemical extinguishers need to be hydrostatically tested every 5 years while dry extinguishers need to be tested every 12 years.
More than just compliance
Testing and maintenance of your workplace’s portable fire extinguishers isn’t just about staying compliant to OSHA and NFPA regulations. It’s about the safety of your employees, your business, and its reputation. If you are unsure of the steps you need to take to ensure your business is fully protected, we can help you.