Where is the nearest fire extinguisher to you right now? Where is the closest portable fire extinguisher at your normal work area?
In case of a fire, knowing the answers to these two questions is very important because we all know that every second counts.
What is even more important, however, is the answer to this question, "Is the fire extinguisher ready for use?" Do YOU know if your unit is ready for use? If you can answer yes to these six questions… great! If you answer no or I don’t know to any of them, then it’s time for a fire extinguisher inspection.
- Is the extinguisher charged fully?
- Is it damaged?
- Is it the proper type extinguisher for the hazards in your area?
- Is the unit hung properly?
- Is it blocked?
- Has it been hydrostatically tested in the past 5-12 years?
So, just how important is an inspection? It can be a matter of life or death:
A man was killed when he used a portable fire extinguisher to put out a small fire. Corrosion on the bottom of the fire extinguisher was serious enough that the extinguisher case ruptured when activated. The parts struck the employee in the chest causing his death.
A similar incident occurred in 1988. This fire extinguisher had a rubber boot or cap to protect the bottom of the cylinder case. Moisture had seeped in between the rubber and outside cylinder wall and caused the cylinder to corrode inside the boot. Over time, this corrosion weakened the cylinder and it ruptured when the internal CO2 cylinder was activated. Other extinguishers of this type have been found to have the same type of corrosion underneath the rubber boot.
In-depth inspection and testing of fire extinguishers are critical. Especially if your fire extinguishers have rubber or plastic boots or caps and are located in potentially corrosive environments such as:
- Outside, unprotected from the weather
- Wet or damp environments
- Near marine facilities or other waterfront buildings, especially those located near salt water
Fire extinguishers should be inspected at least once per month. There are companies that provide this type of service and a quick internet search will find those in your area. However, we believe that safety is everyone’s responsibility, so we encourage you to take a look at the extinguisher in your work area. Let someone know if you see signs that it is damaged or uncharged so it can be taken out of service and a replacement installed.
One more thing… safety is 24/7 so don’t forget the fire extinguisher at home. It should be inspected too.