How to Ensure You Pass a Fire Extinguisher Inspection

November 6, 2017

Even with the most state-of-the-art fire suppression and safety equipment installed at your location, something that seems as minimal as a faulty fire extinguisher can have grave consequences in the case of a fire or cost you significant fines if an inspector deems them not usable. Fire safety must be a top priority for your business, and that includes having the measures in place to ensure your operation passes the required inspections.

Make sure your business is safe from the risks of both fires and fines. Fire safety and fire extinguisher inspections are important to keep people safe at your location, protect property and assets, and stay in compliance with local and other laws and fire codes.

Learn what you need to know to ensure you will pass an inspection as well as what to do in case you don't.

Preparing For a Fire Extinguisher Inspection

What will the inspector be looking for? There are many items a fire safety inspector might be looking for when inspecting a commercial location for fire extinguishers. An OSHA Inspector who's inspecting your fire extinguishers may look for compliance with any of the following general requirements for fire extinguishers:

Here are some examples:

  • Are your portable fire extinguishers in compliance with NFPA 10
  • Are they mounted in places most accessible to staff so they are not injured trying to locate or retrieve them?
  • Are all staff aware of their location and know how to identify them?
  • Are the portable fire extinguishers fully charged?
  • Are your fire extinguisher soldered or riveted to a shell with self-generating soda, foam or gas cartridge?

Passing a fire extinguisher inspection is very much about being proactive and planning for an emergency (that may never come).

What Needs to be Ready For The Inspector?

To make sure the inspection process goes smoothly, you should ensure you've tested any portable fire extinguishers and related automated system. Remember the following about portable fire extinguishers as well. There are three classes or types of fire extinguishers available and are listed below as A, B, and C. They must be labeled to show their class:

Class A:

Ordinary combustible materials such as paper, wood, trash, drapery and furniture upholstery.

Class B:

Flammable liquids including petrol gasoline, oils, solvents, paints and flammable gas.

Class C:

Electrical fires combining or involving Class A or Class B materials with live electricity or electrical power.

These fire extinguishers must be proven to be tested and listed by The Underwriters' Laboratories of Canada (ULC). Look for the specific ULC label on the fire extinguisher.

Normally fire extinguisher inspections are done monthly. Check the extinguisher, its manufacture date and the year it was refilled. If its hydrostatic date has passed, the extinguisher needs to be pulled from service and the powder needs to be refilled by a licensed technician.

Ensure the pressure is correct: take it off the hook, turn upside down and shake to mix the powder, check of damage. If everything looks good, sign the tags.

What Happens if You Don't Pass? Next Steps

As with all inspections, inspectors want to ensure safety and compliance. If there are issues identified during your inspection, the inspector will generally allow you to correct the error and perform another inspection without any fines or penalties. For small infractions, you are able to operate as usual and given a list of updates or items to maintain or correct. If your inspector deems your system to have major faults, you will be forced to shut down until all recommendations in the inspector's report are met.

These situations generally occur when a building operator has taken some major risks and failed to take action on basic fire safety procedures, have no working extinguishers and has been found to be negligent in updating or maintaining them.

Quick Tips

Inspections need to be performed by qualified fire service professionals. They will sign the extinguishers tags if they pass inspection and ensure they're not damaged.

If extinguisher components, such as the handle or hose has been broken, vandalized, or is missing altogether, it's generally more economical to replace the extinguisher entirely.

It's incredibly important to ensure the fire extinguishers at your operation are up to code, will pass annual inspections and function properly. Doing so is crucial to protecting yourself, your assets and your employees from a catastrophic accident.

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