Why (and How) Annual Fire Extinguisher Maintenance is Required

Posted on: July 13, 2017

It’s an OSHA regulation.

There are many things that come with “set it and forget it” promises, but fire extinguishers aren’t one of them. You may never use them. But what good is a safety precaution that fails you if the unexpected does happen?

It’s for this reason that the Department of Labor and the National Fire Protection Association have codes and standards regarding fire extinguishers. These aren’t in place to waste your time. They were created to save lives.

OSHA says, “do it”

United States Department of Labor Occupational Safety & Health Administration has specific requirements you must follow for portable fire extinguishers.

It’s written in ‘government-speak’ and uses the word, “shall.” Don’t let that fool you. This is not an option. Section 1910.157(e)(3) of OSHA’s Fire Protection documentation states:

  • The employer shall assure that portable fire extinguishers are subjected to an annual maintenance check [by a licensed fire equipment dealer] … The employer shall record the annual maintenance date and retain this record for one year after the last entry or the life of the shell, whichever is less. The record shall be available to the Assistant Secretary upon request.

In addition, stored pressure extinguishers must have an internal examination every six years by a Florida state-licensed fire extinguisher dealer. And employers are required to do a quick check of their fire extinguishers every month to make sure they’re mounted properly, have no apparent physical damage, are not obstructed from view and accessibility, and that all pressure gauges (if applicable) are in the operable range.

But why stop there? Good to know your portable fire extinguishers get regular checkups and are ready to use, but does everybody in your organization know how to use them? It’s for this reason that OSHA also has Section 1910.157(d)(3):

  • The employer may use uniformly spaced standpipe systems or hose stations connected to a sprinkler system installed for emergency use by employees instead of Class A portable fire extinguishers, provided that such systems meet the respective requirements of 1910.158 or 1910.159, that they provide total coverage of the area to be protected, and that employees are trained at least annually in their use.

Keep in mind, too, that OSHA requires you to give this training to all employees when they’re first hired.

Check with your insurance provider and be aware of Florida requirements

Not only does the federal government mandate that you to pay attention to your portable fire extinguishers, so does your insurance company. Not doing so could affect your coverage in the event of an emergency. More importantly, the State of Florida requires inspections – at least monthly by the owner of the extinguisher and annually by a licensed company – as stipulated by the National Fire Protection Association in NFPA 10.

This is something you’ll want to delegate to people who specialize in fire safety protection.

”Hey, that reminds me of a question.”

These safety requirements often get people thinking about the care and maintenance of portable fire extinguishers. Here are a few of the most common questions:

  • How many do I need? It’s a math equation. The amount of time in seconds it takes for someone to reach an extinguisher to put out a fire determines this. Get a certified safety organization involved to help you with the right number.
  • Can they sit on the floor? Absolutely not. Portable fire extinguishers are required to be installed in a cabinet or wall recess, or on a special wall bracket.
  • Where do they have to be? This is more about logic, common sense, and safety. Most safety organizations recommend locations near your entrances and exits. Others should be placed along their paths of travel so they’re available along the way.
  • Can these things go off by accident? If you’ve got this concern, it means you may need a refresher on portable fire extinguishers. Here’s the quick scoop. There’s a safety pin in the handle, and it prevents an accidental discharge. Check the gauge on each extinguisher during your regular inspections. If you see that the indicator needle isn’t in the designated safe zone, contact your fire safety company.
  • Do we have the right type? Portable fire extinguishers are manufactured to work on the combustible materials in their general facility. You are required to have appropriate portable fire protection, so if you’re not sure, the right thing to do is bring in professionals who can help you find out.

Don’t forget about other fire safety requirements

Portable fire extinguishers aren’t the only thing OSHA and other organizations require you to regularly test and maintain. Another important annual inspection puts a focus on your building’s emergency lighting system.

It’s required so people can safely find their way to an exit. The systems are usually battery-operated, which means they need to be tested regularly to ensure they’re operational in case of an emergency.

Never out of mind

Safety precautions such as portable fire extinguishers and emergency exit lights are in place to give you security. It’s easy to shift this concern into a “set it and forget it” mode, but safety doesn’t work that way. You need regular checkups to ensure that these measures are ready to do their jobs. They may never get used, but the time and effort to make sure they’re prepared is never wasted.

At LifeSafety Management, we offer full-service fire safety inspection and maintenance services. We’ll ensure that your fire extinguishers – and all of your safety measures – are up to code and ready in the event of an emergency. If you have any questions, reach out to our team today by phone at(800) 330-1158 or through our online contact form.