Do I need to check my fire extinguishers monthly?

Do I need to check my fire extinguishers monthly?

One of the most common misconceptions around fire protection is that the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) only requires annual fire extinguisher inspections.

While some local jurisdictions have adopted various versions of NFPA 10, nearly all versions require some form of monthly fire extinguisher inspection. It is ultimately up to your business to determine how you want to handle monthly inspections, however according to NFPA 10, 4-3.1:

“Fire extinguishers shall be inspected when initially placed in service and thereafter at approximately 30-day intervals. Fire extinguishers shall be inspected at more frequent intervals when circumstances require.”

What is included in the monthly inspection?

A monthly inspection of your fire extinguisher is significantly less complicated than an annual inspection. Often referred to as a ‘visual inspection', these take less time to complete and generally only include a surface level evaluation of the unit. NFPA 10, 4-3.2 states that periodic inspections of fire extinguishers should include a check of at least the following:

  • • Visual check for damage, rust, corrosion, leakage, or clogged nozzle
  • • Pressure gauge within range
  • • Fullness determined by weighing or "hefting"
  • • Flag seal and pull pin not broken or missing
  • • Obstruction of the unit
  • • Extinguisher placement
  • • Inspection tag & labeling
  • • Documentation of inspection
  • • Inspection & manufacturing dates

Who can perform the inspections?

According to NFPA 10, it is a requirement that the annual inspections of a fire extinguisher be conducted by a licensed professional. This is not the case with monthly inspections. Monthly inspections can be conducted by a licensed professional as well as by a non-licensed person, very often the employer. While companies can perform their own inspections, many companies instead choose to employ third party vendors to perform these inspections. Using outside vendors can help to drive accountability, save time, and ensure compliance at a competitive cost. Many fire service providers also tend to have better documentation processes and other value-added services, such as the ability to not only inspect but also correct issues on the spot.

Other considerations

No two businesses are identical and it ultimately up to you as the employer to manage the inspections at your company, however, here are common items to consider before deciding what is right for your business:

Time: Most inspections take 1-3 minutes per extinguisher depending on the experience of the inspector, the type and size of unit, placement as well as various other factors. Inspection time multiplied by the number of extinguishers in your facility multiplied by 12 months will give you a rough estimate of the total time you can expect to spend checking your extinguishers in a given year. Is this time well spent for your team?

Total Cost: Many businesses often think they are saving money by performing their own inspections. While this can certainly be the case, too often we find highly compensated employees performing these inspections. This practice ultimately costs the employer more than if they hired a third party. Determining the total inspection time needed for your facility and your avg. labor cost/hour compared to what a service provider would charge is a good place to start.

Vendor Selection: Service providers can have a dramatic impact on the cost and compliance of your program. Many fire protection companies have minimum stop and service charge fees that can drastically increase program costs. A growing trend is combining monthly fire inspections with other monthly services like First Aid, Eyewash or AED service. This helps you to consolidate your vendors as well as reduce your overall invoice. Can your service provider preform multiple inspections?

Documentation: You can do everything right as a business owner or safety manager, but if you don’t have proper documentation, in the eyes of the Fire Marshall and OSHA the inspections never took place. Missing documentation is one of the most common mistakes when performing your own inspections. Service providers generally have much better methods for tracking, recording and documenting your inspections.