Fire Extinguisher Inspection: A Safety Officer’s Guide

Conduct efficient fire extinguisher inspection and ensure fire safety using a mobile app

Published 23 Jul 2021

What is a Fire Extinguisher Inspection?

A fire extinguisher inspection is conducted to check the condition and it includes both fire extinguisher maintenance and testing. An external safety professional or an organization’s own safety officer conducts a monthly fire extinguisher inspection as part of the overall fire safety strategy and it includes both fire extinguisher maintenance and testing.

Over 90% of fires in commercial properties are extinguished early on by members of the public using a fire extinguisher. Even a single malfunctioning fire extinguisher can put countless lives at risk. A safety officer’s job is to perform regular fire extinguisher inspections and maintain up to date records to keep buildings and tenants safe. It is critical that a safety officer knows how to efficiently perform a fire extinguisher inspection, is aware of the most common issues identified during an inspection, and knows how to respond accordingly.

Importance of Inspection Tags

Labeling of fire extinguishers is a requirement in accordance with OSHA’s Hazard Communication under Toxic and Hazardous Substance standards, specifically 1910.1200(f)(5) and 1910.1200(f)(6). These regulations are aimed towards the chemical manufacturers and employers where the fire extinguishers are located. While recordkeeping of fire extinguisher inspections using a tag, label, paper or electronic files is a standard set by the National Fire Protection Association. NFPA also recommends having a separate fire extinguisher inspection log.

On top of complying with the standards, this will ensure that fire extinguisher inspections are consistently conducted by the employees. Additionally, having records of these inspections will come in handy in the event an external inspector will check the compliance of the workplace in regards to fire extinguishers.

Is Fire Extinguisher Inspection a Requirement by OSHA?

Yes, fire extinguisher inspection is a requirement. According to the Fire Protection for portable fire extinguishers standards of OSHA, The employer is responsible for inspection, maintenance, and testing (ITM) of all available portable fire extinguishers in the workplace (1910.157(e)(1)). 

Monthly visual inspections of these fire extinguishers are expected (1910.157(e)(2). The portable fire extinguishers standard also requires an annual maintenance check with the date recorded. The employer is responsible for ensuring that these extinguishers are maintained a year after the last entry.

Carbon dioxide extinguishers are required to be tested every 5 years at 5/3 of the service pressure stamped onto the cylinder while nitrogen extinguishers are hydrostatically tested every 10 years.

How Often Do Fire Extinguishers Need to be Examined?

Fire extinguishers need to be checked during initial installation and every month thereafter as required by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). The frequency of the fire extinguisher inspection can be adjusted according to its environment. 

For example, more frequent inspections should be conducted if the area that it was stored in is prone to tampering, rust, and other elements that could damage the extinguisher. 

NFPA states that these monthly fire extinguisher inspections should be recorded for at least 12 months. Information such as the month and year of the inspection and the person who conducted it should be recorded on a label or electronic file.

How to Perform a Fire Extinguisher Inspection in 3 Minutes

When performing a monthly fire extinguisher inspection, it is important to follow these 5 key steps. 

  1. Check accessibility.
  2. Examine the physical state
  3. Check the pressure gauge
  4. Notice the inspection tag
  5. Generate report and recommend action plan/s

Once you have learned what to look out for, you should expect to safely complete your inspection in 3 minutes. Here’s the complete guide on how to inspect a fire extinguisher:

    1. Check accessibility
      Firstly, walk up to the fire extinguisher to check its visibility and accessibility:

      • Identify if a fire extinguisher is present in the area and take note if it is easily visible.
      • It should not be blocked by any equipment or other objects that would make it difficult to be accessed during an emergency.
      • Portable fire extinguishers other than wheeled types must also be secured in a specific location (e.g. inside an unlocked glass cabinet or a wooden box) to prevent them from being moved.
    2. Examine the physical state
      Next, pick up the fire extinguisher to closely check for labeling, overall condition and physical defects:

      • Look for the fire extinguisher’s serial number, and check if the fire extinguisher label is readable.
      • Check if the cylinder and other external metal parts are free of corrosion, dents, and other signs of damage.
      • Check the connection between the hose and cylinder is secure.
      • Inspect if there are cracks in the hose or leak in the nozzle.
      • Check if the locking pin goes through the holes of discharge lever and handle, and if the pin is secured well by the seal. The pin locks the discharge lever and prevents accidental discharge.
    3. Check the pressure gauge
      Examine where the gauge needle is. A needle within the green zone is good. A needle in the left red zone means that the fire extinguisher is undercharged and warrants a recharge, while a needle in the right red zone signals a danger of being overcharged.
      Fire extinguisher pressure gauge

      Pressure Gauge

    4. Look for the inspection tag
      Note if an inspection tag is available. The tag should indicate that a fire extinguisher is regularly inspected.
    5. Generate report and recommend action plan/s
      Once done with the inspection, summarize observations/ action plan. Make sure to sign off on the fire extinguisher inspection tag (if available) with your name/signature and date of inspection. That’s it!
      fire extinguisher inspection steps

      Fire Extinguisher Inspection Guide

      Feel free to save this fire extinguisher inspection guide to help the people in your organization remember the steps more easily.

Top 5 Most Common Issues Identified During a Fire Extinguisher Inspection and What to Do

While it is important to know how to identify a proper-functioning fire extinguisher, it is equally important to be aware of the common issues that arise and how to respond:

Inspection issues and action plans

Most Common Issues in a Fire Extinguisher Inspection

Fire extinguisher location obstructed

Issue: When a fire extinguisher is obstructed, it could mean the difference between life and death. Pay attention to instances where a portable fire extinguisher may be behind furniture, office equipment, and doors, or hidden under office desks and sink cabinets.
Action: You should immediately remove obstructions, or reposition the fire extinguisher. Make sure it is easily seen by everyone. Place it along a natural path of travel, such as a hallway or an entrance/exit. Post it under a clear fire extinguisher signage.

Cylinder has dents and/or rust

Issue: As fire extinguishers often remain unused, they can experience physical deterioration due to humid or corrosive environment, constant transfers, or accidental bumps. Physical defects can lead to malfunction or dangerous explosions.
Action: Immediately forward the cylinder to the manufacturer for replacement.

Fire extinguisher overcharged or undercharged

Issue: An extinguisher with a good charge will have sufficient velocity to spur the chemical 10-20 feet. An overcharged fire extinguisher can cause leakage or worse, a cylinder explosion. An undercharged one can be equally dangerous and be unable to extinguish fire.
Action: Immediately forward the cylinder to the manufacturer for replacement /recharge.

Locking pin missing/broken seal

Issue: Locking pins and seals can go missing when they have not been replaced after training exercises, have been tampered, or were simply not installed in the first place. These two must always go together as they prevent accidental pressing of the lever and release of the fire extinguisher’s contents.
Action: Whichever is missing, immediately get replacements from your supplies. Pins and seals are either made of metal or plastic. If not in stock, contact your fire extinguisher provider or go to your nearest hardware store.

Fire extinguisher not elevated from the floor

Issue: A fire extinguisher directly on the floor may cause others to accidentally bump it off, which can further cause dents to the body. The changing temperature of the floor can also directly affect the fire extinguisher, which can cause change in pressure.
Action: Depending on the cylinder size, the standard practice is to mount it via metal brackets on a wall, 3.5 – 5 feet above the floor. Alternatively, you could also use wooden or steel fire extinguisher stands.

This sample fire extinguisher inspection report presents the findings, evidence, and recommended action plans:

A Mobile App for Efficient Fire Extinguisher Inspection

Safety officers can inspect up to 100 fire extinguishers in a building per month, not to mention complete post-inspection reports for each. Caught up in all that paperwork, the probability of human error increases, which means the risk of fire caused by a single non-functioning fire extinguisher also becomes higher.

With iAuditor by SafetyCulture, safety officers can improve fire safety in the workplace by accomplishing fire extinguisher inspections more efficiently. With iAuditor, you can:

  • Perform efficient paperless fire extinguisher inspections on your mobile device;
  • Easily attach photo evidence to your fire extinguisher inspection reports;
  • Escalate issues you identify while performing the inspection by assigning corrective actions;
  • Generate complete visual reports and share them instantly; and
  • Save data to the cloud and keep your fire extinguisher inspection templates and reports safe.

To get you started, download this free template for a 3-minute fire extinguisher inspection and customize it for your next fire extinguisher inspection.

SafetyCulture Content Specialist

Jona Tarlengco

Jona Tarlengco is a content writer and researcher for SafetyCulture since 2018. She usually writes about safety and quality topics, contributing to the creation of well-researched articles. Her 5-year experience in one of the world’s leading business news organisations helps enrich the quality of the information in her work.

Jona Tarlengco is a content writer and researcher for SafetyCulture since 2018. She usually writes about safety and quality topics, contributing to the creation of well-researched articles. Her 5-year experience in one of the world’s leading business news organisations helps enrich the quality of the information in her work.