Fire Extinguisher Inspection—A Safety Officer’s Guide
Ensure fire safety with an efficient fire extinguisher inspection using a mobile app
Published September 3rd, 2020
What is a Fire Extinguisher Inspection?
A fire extinguisher inspection is conducted monthly to ensure that fire extinguishers are in good working condition. Fire extinguisher maintenance and monitoring is covered under the inspection and is conducted by external professionals or an organization’s own safety officers as part of an overall fire safety strategy.
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.
This guide gives a quick rundown on the following:
- How to perform a fire extinguisher inspection in 3 minutes
- Top 5 most common issues identified during inspections
- Free mobile app and cloud software to streamline fire extinguisher inspections
When performing a monthly fire extinguisher inspection, it is important to follow these 5 key steps. Once you have learned what to look out for, you should expect to safely complete your inspection in 3 minutes.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Look for the inspection tag.
Note if an inspection tag is available. The tag should indicate that a fire extinguisher is regularly inspected.
- 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!
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:
- 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.
Click the sample fire extinguisher inspection report below which presents the findings, evidence, and recommended action plans in PDF.
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 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 3-minute fire extinguisher inspection checklist and customize it for your next inspection.