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It gets old in Safety teaching Fire Extinguisher Inspections and Maintenance !

It is like an old tune on the radio, you have heard hundreds and hundreds of times, so why aren’t people doing the inspections and procedures that will protect your life when fire breaks out in a MOMENTS notice!

In safety I was asked” I was told recently that one is supposed to shake fire extinguishers (the usual powder type) once in a while to prevent the powder settling at the bottom and caking. I have a half dozen fire extinguishers on the boat (yes, I am a bit paranoid in this regard), some of them many years old. And yes, all of them show the gauge in the ‘green’ range (I had one or two that slowly moved out of the green and they were promptly replaced). So, I took some of them off their brackets and and shook them. I expected to feel some movement in them when I turn them upside down etc but nothing, even with prolonged (a minute or so) shaking.”

Safety responded with; “Usually once a month I turn mine upside down and tap them with a rubber mallet…If you flip them quickly you should feel the weight shift from on end to the other. They sometimes cake up from sitting for a long period of time. You can hit them pretty hard with the mallet (RUBBER) without any worries.”

You  the worker and supervisor(s) must ensure that:

·        The extinguisher is not blocked by equipment, coats or other objects that could interfere with access in an emergency.

·        The pressure is at the recommended level. On extinguishers equipped with a gauge the needle should be in the green zone – not too high and not too low.

·        The nozzle or other parts are not hindered in any way.

·        The pin and tamper seal (if it has one) are intact.

·        There are no dents, leaks, rust, chemical deposits and/or other signs of abuse/wear. Wipe off any corrosive chemicals, oil, gunk etc. that may have deposited on the extinguisher.

·        Some manufacturers recommend shaking your dry chemical extinguishers once a month to prevent the powder from settling/packing. Fire extinguishers should be pressure tested (a process called hydrostatic testing) after a number of years to ensure that the cylinder is safe to use. Consult your owner’s manual, extinguisher label or the manufacturer to see when yours may need such testing. If the extinguisher is damaged or needs recharging, replace it immediately!

IMPORTANT:

Recharge all extinguishers immediately after use regardless of how much they were used.What is the difference between a fire extinguisher inspection and fire extinguisher maintenance?

INSPECTION 

An inspection is a “quick check” to give reasonable assurance that a fire extinguisher is available, fully charged and operable. The value of an inspection lies in the frequency, regularity, and thoroughness with which it is conducted. The frequency will vary from hourly to monthly, based on the needs of the situation. Inspections should always be conducted when extinguishers are initially placed in service and thereafter at approximately 30-day intervals.

MAINTENANCE

Fire extinguishers should be maintained at regular intervals (at least once a year), or when specifically indicated by an inspection. Maintenance is a “thorough check” of the extinguisher. It is intended to give maximum assurance that an extinguisher will operate effectively and safely. It includes a thorough examination and any necessary repair, recharging or replacement. It will normally reveal the need for hydrostatic testing of an extinguisher.

While scheduling periodic inspections of household devices, it is common practice to focus solely on more prominent home features and appliances – like washers, dryers, roofs, windows and front lawns. Yet, with respect to maintenance concerns there is one device that always seems to be overlooked. In fact, many homeowners might not even own one of these items. It’s a pop culture staple, and one of the most immediately accessible tools that could save you and your home from serious danger. The fire extinguisher: your first line of defense against all initial incendiary threats. Contrary to popular knowledge, fire extinguishers require monthly inspections and annual professional maintenance.

Most home fire extinguishers weigh between 5-20 pounds and can be stored in a wide variety of convenient locations throughout a building. However, due to infrequent fire-related threats and the fact they’re stored away, fire extinguishers don’t always receive the level of upkeep necessary to maintain their proper function. Proper maintenance ensures you fire extinguisher’s ability to expel its form of coolant or dry chemicals used to cut off a fire’s oxygen supply.

For optimal safety, check your extinguisher each and every month. To get started you’ll first want to direct attention to the tamper seal. Broken tamper seals may indicate damage or previous use. If the seal is broken strongly consider replacing the extinguisher. You don’t want to run out of juice in a moment of hazard!

Next, focus on the pull pin and make sure it is securely inserted into the handle. Then assess the pressure gauge, which will indicate the tank’s current pressure. As long as the gauge’s needle hovers in the approved “green zone,” it will operate appropriately.

One of the final steps is to inspect the device for physical damage – corrosion, dents, etc. The North American  Fire Administration, the authoritative governmental entity for fire safety and awareness, highly recommends instantly replacing your extinguisher if it contains visible signs of physical damage. Morphed containers may leak or even explode under certain conditions, which can result in bodily injuries.

Note: If you have a dry chemical fire extinguisher (it will be officially stated in the manual). Shaking it once a month will help prevent chemicals from settling in layers or solidifying at the bottom of the tank.

While monthly checkups will help safeguard your extinguisher’s functionality, an annual professional maintenance inspection will provide further guarantee. Plus, each extinguisher typically includes an attached tag that can be used to track and record annual inspections.

In a worst case scenario the utility of your fire extinguisher can mean the difference between life and limb. It is the first line of defense against all fire-related threats, and its portability allows for convenient deployment in just about any room. Despite the effectiveness of their pressurized payloads, only use extinguishers to fight small fires, as they cannot handle large blazes.

Ultimately, a fire extinguisher is a critical safety tool that should receive strong maintenance consideration. Remember to include your fire extinguisher in any upcoming home maintenance checklists. After all, you and your home deserve to be protected!

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