A properly working extinguisher could save a life, maybe even yours. Everyone should know how to perform fire extinguisher inspections. They should be completed on a monthly basis whether at home and in the workplace. Monthly inspections will ensure the fire extinguisher will operate as directed in the event of an emergency. When completed, you should be able to perform a fire extinguisher inspection on common types of extinguishers. The importance of this training is to ensure you are familiar with fire extinguishers and have a working, serviceable extinguisher if / when you are in an emergency.
- Do not use a fire extinguisher that has been damaged or punctured. The contents are under pressure and a damaged or corroded cylinder could explode.
- Ensure you receive proper training prior to operating a fire extinguisher.
- There are different types of extinguishers for different types of fires. It is important to use the proper type extinguisher for your work environment.
How a fire should be extinguished depends on the type of fuel that is feeding the fire. A fire needs three things in order to burn: oxygen, heat, fuel. Listed below are the most common types of extinguishers and what fuel they are designed to extinguish. There are some
- Type A: extinguishes solids such as paper and wood
- Type B: extinguishes liquid and gases
- Type C: extinguishes electrical equipment
- Type D: extinguishes combustible metals
- Type K: extinguishes oils and fats
In order to complete a fire extinguisher inspection, here are some materials you will/may need:
- Fire extinguisher to be inspected
- Inspection or maintenance tag (template provided at Step: 9)
- Safing pin
- Safety tag
For a replacement fire extinguisher or parts, contact your local fire department or one of the sites listed below. If your local fire department does not provide fire extinguisher services, they can point you to somewhere that does.
Step 1: Knowing Your Fire Extinguisher
Before inspecting your fire extinguisher, it is important to know the terminology of the parts being inspected. Above is a diagram of a common combination ABC fire extinguisher. An ABC fire extinguisher is able to be used on fires of types A, B, and C (A: wood/paper, B: flammable liquids and gases, and C: electrical).
Step 2: Maintenance or Inspection Tag
Verify the extinguisher has a maintenance or inspection tag or record. Check the tag or record to ensure the extinguisher has been inspected on a monthly basis and that the inspection has not yet been done for the current month. Most extinguishers have a tag attached as a quick reference to show the inspection cycles are up to date.
There are some extinguisher owners who keep a record book of their extinguishers and when they were last inspected in leu of a tag.
Step 3: Gauge in the Green
Check the gauge to ensure the needle points to the green area. This lets the operator know that the extinguisher is fully charged and ready for use. The gauge on the left is pretty hard to read, to the gauge on the right has been illustrated to be able to read it easier. If the yellow arrow is not in the green, the extinguisher will need to be replaced, or, in some cases, can be refilled at your local fire department.
Step 4: Safety Pin in Place
Make sure the pin is in place so the extinguisher does not accidentally discharge while being handled. Some extinguishers have a plastic security tag that keeps the pin from falling out or being inadvertently pulled while being handled. In the case of the picture above, a small zip tie is being used. If the security tag is missing you can use a zip tie to ensure the pin does not fall out. If the pin is missing, it could be an indicator that the extinguisher has been used.
Step 5: Hefting
Just because the needle is in the green does not always mean it is fully charged. To ensure the extinguisher is full, heft or pick it up. You should be able to feel the weight of the agent inside. If you do not feel the agent move inside the cylinder, it could either be old and no longer moves freely in the cylinder, or there is no longer any agent inside the bottle. In either case, the fire extinguisher needs to be replaced.
Step 6: Dents and Damage
Check the fire extinguisher cylinder for any dents, punctures, corrosion or any type of physical damage. If there any type of damage to the cylinder, the fire extinguisher should be replaced. Operating a fire extinguisher that is damaged or corroded can be extremely dangerous and possibly explode since the contents are under pressure. For disposition of damage fire extinguishers, please contact your local fire department.
Step 7: Hose
Check the hose for cracks, kinks, breaks and security to the cylinder. Look inside the hose and nozzle of the extinguisher to ensure there are no obstructions or clogs. If you find a problem with the hose, the extinguisher will need replaced, or in some cases only the hose will require replacement. Please consult your local fire department.
Step 8: Operating Instructions
Make sure the operating instructions on the fire extinguisher are clear and legible. If they are not, the fire extinguisher will need to be replaced. Do not try to create instructions on your own.
Step 9: Document
On the maintenance or inspection tag, document for the month and year the inspection was completed using your initials. If the tag has no more available boxes to show current inspections, replace the tag. Tags can be picked up at your local fire department or printed off the internet. I have provided a simple template for printing below.
Congratulations, you have completed a monthly fire extinguisher inspection. See you next month.