Stay Prepared: 7 Tips for Fire Extinguisher Service

7 Tips for Fire Extinguisher Service

Service requirements for fire extinguishers vary based on the class of extinguisher. The National Fire Protection Association and U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration call for monthly and yearly inspections of all extinguishers and more extensive fire extinguisher service after several years. Here are seven tips to help you stay prepared to promote fire safety.

1. Plan Ahead for Fire Extinguisher Service

The best way to prepare for servicing fire extinguishers is to know exactly when each extinguisher is due for external and internal inspection, testing and maintenance. It is also important to note which inspections can be performed by non-specialists and when certified professionals should inspect or service fire extinguisher installations.

A non-professional can perform external monthly inspections after professional installation. During yearly external inspections, experts can identify issues that require maintenance or internal fire extinguisher service. The type of extinguisher determines the frequency of further testing. Pressure extinguishers should be serviced and recharged every six years. Plan for hydrostatic testing every 10 to 12 years.

2. Perform Monthly External Inspections

Monthly inspections can be performed by non-certified employees. These external inspections mandated by the NFPA and OSHA involve several steps:

  • Make sure fire extinguishers are in designated positions.
  • Fire extinguishers should be visible.
  • Signage should indicate extinguisher locations.
  • Each extinguisher should be easy to access.
  • Extinguisher pressure gauges should be functional.
  • Fire extinguishers should be filled.

After each inspection, the employee who inspects extinguishers should record the month and year of inspection and their name. Inspection records can be kept on a tag attached to an extinguisher or in a digital or paper file. 

Monthly inspections can indicate whether fire extinguisher service by certified professionals is likely to be necessary in advance of annual maintenance. Extinguishers stored in corrosive or humid environments or dented equipment may require immediate repair or replacement.

3. Schedule Yearly External Maintenance

Every year, a certified inspector should inspect fire extinguishers and provide external maintenance. In accordance with NFPA 10, this full maintenance check should cover all mechanical parts. One of the best ways to stay prepared for fire safety is to schedule fire extinguisher service around the same time as inspections or maintenance of other fire protection systems such as alarms and sprinklers.

An annual inspection can be a good opportunity for an expert to check the pressure gauge. While non-professionals can verify that these gauges are functional during monthly inspections, certified experts can determine whether an extinguisher is overcharged or undercharged and in need of recharging. Experts can also identify whether an extinguisher has a broken seal or is missing a locking pin. These components prevent the accidental release of contents and ensure that extinguishers are ready to use in the event of an emergency.

4. Set Up Internal Examinations Based on Extinguisher Class

The class of extinguisher will determine how frequently internal examinations should take place. Carbon dioxide extinguishers should be tested every five years at 5/3 of the service pressure indicated by a stamp on the cylinder. NFPA 10 mandates fire extinguisher service and recharging every six years.

An internal examination of a fire extinguisher involves discharging the suppressant, refilling the cylinder with dry chemical and carbon dioxide or nitrogen, replacing the valve stem and O-rings, testing the extinguisher for leaks and applying a six-year compliance sticker and annual inspection tag. You can stay prepared for fire safety by making sure each extinguisher is the right class and contains the most effective fire suppressants for fire hazards in any area when returning extinguishers to the designated locations.

5. Arrange for Hydrostatic Testing Every 5 or 12 Years

Hydrostatic testing involves stripping down extinguishers to just the shell and hose. The extinguisher is filled with pressurized water, drained and dried before being reassembled and recharged. Extinguishers that leak, become distorted or have couplings move permanently fail hydrostatic testing and should be condemned. 

The frequency of hydrostatic testing depends on the class and type of extinguisher. You should plan to service fire extinguisher equipment containing carbon dioxide, pressured water or wet chemicals every five years. Dry chemical fire extinguishers should undergo this fire extinguisher service every 12 years. Certified professionals will replace the tamper seal, service collar, labels and tags on extinguishers that are ready to return to service.

6. Use Signs To Indicate Extinguisher Location and Status

Signage should direct building occupants toward fire extinguisher locations. You can use signs with symbols and directional arrows, display OSHA notices or post other important fire safety information. Labels and signs can indicate the class of fire extinguishers, while informational posters can help occupants choose the right extinguisher for any fire.

OSHA safety signs can serve as reminders for site visit inspections. A notice that reminds inspectors to check eye wash and fire extinguishers on a monthly basis, make a tag entry, sign and date inspection tags can promote regulatory compliance. Signs can also indicate access requirements for fire suppression equipment, such as the need to break a glass case to remove an extinguisher for use. Signage is also available to indicate the status of extinguishers that are charged, condemned or discharged after fire extinguisher service.

7. Keep Service Records for Fire Extinguishers

You should keep records of all fire extinguisher inspections, maintenance and tests. Note the month and year of each inspection and the name of the inspector on a tag attached to the extinguisher or in a digital or paper file. Maintaining current records of fire extinguisher inspections and maintenance is the best way to prepare for future extinguisher service. 

Stay Up to Date on Fire Extinguisher Service

Building managers should be aware of the age and condition of every fire extinguisher in a facility. While it is only necessary to maintain monthly inspection records for the past year on fire extinguisher tags, keeping longer digital or paper logs of fire extinguisher service can be helpful for scheduling the service fire extinguisher equipment requires after five years or 12 years. Order the fire equipment signs and labels you need to promote safety at