All fire extinguishers should be inspected by the user at least monthly to make sure that they are in their proper position, have not been discharged or lost pressure (in the case of extinguishers fitted with a pressure indicator) or suffered obvious damage. Any extinguishers that are not available for use should be replaced by serviceable extinguishers.
Monthly Inspection of Fire Extinguishers by the User
Inspection of fire extinguishers is defined in Clause 6 of I.S. 291:2002 as an "examination to check that the appliance is immediately available for effective use so that corrective action can be taken if necessary." The standard declares that the frequency of inspection must be at least monthly or more frequently if necessary. It gives details about the inspection procedure and declares that it must be carried out "by the user, or agent appointed by the user, supplier, or a competent extinguisher maintenance agent."
Inspection is not the same requirement as maintenance. Maintenance of fire extinguishers is defined in Clause 7.1 of I.S. 291:2002 as a "thorough examination of the appliance, which must involve opening the appliance, examining the body shell internally and externally and examining all parts and replacing any defective parts leaving the extinguisher ready for use." Maintenance should ONLY be carried out by a "competent, trained person who is familiar with the equipment and with any special procedure recommended by the manufacturer."
The Fire Services Acts 1981 & 2003 and The Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) Regulations 2007 provide the legislative basis for compliance with the monthly inspection routine as given in I.S. 291:2002.
The monthly inspection procedure shall determine that:-
- The extinguisher is in its designated place;
- Access to or visibility of the extinguisher is not obstructed;
- Any seals or indicator tabs are not broken;
- Pressure indicators, where fitted, show the correct pressure;
- The extinguisher has not been damaged;
- The extinguisher does not have obvious defects such as a clogged nozzle, corrosion, leakage or a loose or damaged hose;
- In the case of all carbon dioxide gas extinguishers the discharge horn or hose/horn is properly secured;
- The maintenance record label is properly attached to the extinguisher and is up to date and the maintenance register is entered up to date;
- A service certificate should be issued to the customer for record purposes (not applicable if the monthly inspection is undertaken in-house).
Frequency of Inspection
More frequent inspection may be necessary in the following cases:-
- High frequency of outbreaks of fires;
- Severe hazard;
- Susceptibility to tampering, damage, vandalism or malicious mischief;
- Locations which make extinguishers susceptible to mechanical injury such as exposure to abnormal temperatures, to corrosive atmospheres or to physical obstructions.
Where an inspection reveals that (c) or (d) has occurred then the extinguisher shall be immediately withdrawn from service and arrangements shall be made for the extinguisher to undergo maintenance.
The procedure to follow if a fire extinguisher is found by the User to be defective:-
- Do not attempt to perform maintenance;
- Withdraw the defective extinguisher from service;
- Replace it with another extinguisher of the same type (if available);
- Contact a fire extinguisher service company immediately to rectify the defect.
The user must keep a record of monthly inspection with the following information:-
- Date of inspection;
- Number of items inspected;
- Details of any faults detected and corrective action taken;
- The name of the person undertaking the inspection.
Download a form that can be used for the purpose of record keeping here