The Five Most Common Fire Extinguisher Inspection Issues
1. Fire extinguisher damage
The problem: In most workplaces, fire extinguishers will go unused for long periods of time. Unfortunately, that often means that the cylinders become subject to damage. Whether dents and scratches through handling and accidental knocks. Or through rust and corrosion caused by environmental factors. If a fire extinguisher is stored in a damp or humid environment, it will naturally rust over time.
When a fire extinguisher cylinder is damaged, it can lead to equipment failure, or even to the unit exploding. Both of which outcomes have the potential to be extremely dangerous.
The solution: The only way to resolve this problem is to return the affected fire extinguisher to its manufacturer for replacement or speak to your local fire safety experts to arrange a replacement.
2. Incorrectly charged fire extinguisher
The problem: Charging in fire extinguishers refers to the amount of pressure and suppressant contained within each unit. To function properly, a fire extinguisher needs to have the right amount of pressure to release the suppressant at the right velocity. So, extinguishers should always be recharged immediately after use, even if they are not empty, to ensure that they are ready next time they are needed.
An undercharged fire extinguisher will not be effectual when used. Risking the potential of the fire spreading and people being injured. An overcharged fire extinguisher has the potential to be dangerous. It could leak. Or it could explode.
The solution: Again, the only way to deal with an under or overcharged fire extinguisher is to return it to the manufacturer or again speak to your local fire safety experts. They will either recharge it or replace it.
3. Fire extinguisher obstruction
The problem: Fire extinguisher obstruction is the most common issue detected during a fire risk assessment because it is so easily done. Those with a penchant for tidiness and aesthetics will frequently try to hide fire extinguishers – in cupboards, under desks – to make a room feel less cluttered or more visually appealing. And even when this isn’t the case, it’s easy for other obstructions to occur. Whether a poorly placed delivery, or through someone simply moving a chair, or table, or propping open a door.
This may seem like a minor issue. And it’s simple enough to resolve. But if it does go unresolved, it can genuinely make the difference between life and death.
The solution: All you need to do to resolve this issue is remove any obstructions. And ensure that all fire extinguishers are easily visible. If you have portable fire extinguishers, consider creating a fixed placement point for them, with official signage. If you have fixed fire extinguishers, think carefully about their location. Placing them in a natural walkway or by a door will reduce the likelihood of further obstruction.
4. Poor placement of fire extinguishers – (Ideally they should be secured to a wall)
The problem: As previously mentioned, one of the most common problems found with fire extinguishers is cylinder damage. And more often than not, this is caused by poor placement. If placed without the correct brackets, fire extinguishers can easily be knocked over. If placed on the floor, fluctuating temperatures can also lead to pressure changes within the cylinder.
Both of these issues can result in fire extinguisher malfunction or explosion. But this another problem that is easily remedied.
The solution: Depending upon the size and type, most fire extinguishers are best positioned mounted via a wall bracket. This is usually best placed around 3.5 feet above the ground. If you have thinner, plasterboard walls unable to take the weight of larger fire extinguishers, it its also possible to place them on a wooden or metal box or planking. Just to keep each fire extinguisher safely off the floor, and within easy reach.
5. Missing locking pin or broken seal
The problem: All fire extinguishers come complete with locking pins and seals. These are there to prevent the extinguisher from being accidentally discharged and to show that the unit has not been tampered with. But they can easily go missing.
Without these features, you may find yourself sitting in a cloud of foam or yellow powder following an accidental discharge. Or being unable to prove to a visiting fire officer that an extinguisher doesn’t need to be serviced.
The solution: All you need to do if your fire extinguisher locking pin or seal is missing or broken is to replace it. You can find replacements at most hardware stores, or even online marketplaces, such as Amazon. If you have trouble finding the right replacement, contact your fire extinguisher provider.
How you treat your fire extinguishers is a really important safety issue. If you’re not sure if you’ve got it right, or need support with placement, book a professional fire risk assessment for your business. That way, you can be confident that you’ve done all you can to keep your business and your employees protected.