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Fire Extinguisher Inspections

By Barb Garrison, M.S., CHMM, CET

Fire extinguishers in your funeral home are required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to be inspected monthly to make sure they are available, charged and ready to use.

What to look for:

Make sure extinguishers are not blocked or hidden from view (e.g., by a coat rack), and make sure access to the extinguishers is not blocked.
Make sure extinguishers are mounted in their designated places.
Check to see the annual inspection tag is in place and check the date on the tag to make sure the extinguisher has been checked by a fire extinguisher service company within the last year.
For extinguishers equipped with a gauge, make sure the gauge needle is in the green or "full charge" area indicating there is enough propellant in the extinguisher to expel the powder.
Check to see the safety pin and/or tamper seal (if there is one) are in place.
Look for any obvious signs of physical damage such as dents, corrosion, leaks, etc.
If an extinguisher has a hose, make sure it is not broken, plugged or cut.
If the extinguisher is a dry chemical type, invert the extinguisher and shake it to loosen the powder which tends to compress at the bottom of the cylinder.
If an extinguisher may have
been tampered with or is damaged, under- or overcharged, etc., immediately contact a fire extinguisher service company. If an extinguisher must be removed for service or testing, a spare extinguisher must be placed in service. The spare must be of at least the same type and capacity as the extinguisher that is being serviced.

After you complete the monthly inspection, DOCUMENT it: Without documentation, there is no evidence you completed the inspection, and this could result in an OSHA citation. You can use the Equipment Inspection Checklist found in the OFDA manual. And while you're at it, inspect the other pieces of safety equipment you're supposed to check each month like smoke detectors, sharps containers, emergency showers and eyewash stations.

Once a year, you should have a fire extinguisher inspection company inspect your fire extinguishers. They will perform a more comprehensive inspection and will check to see whether extinguishers are due to be pressure-tested (a process called hydrostatic testing). This test helps ensure the extinguisher cylinder is safe to use. Depending on the type of extinguishers you have in your funeral home, they will need to be tested every 5 12 years. When you receive an extinguisher back after testing, you should be provided with documentation that shows the date of the test, the signature of the person who performed the test, and the serial number (or other identifier) of the fire extinguisher that was tested. Keep this documentation until the next time the extinguisher is tested!

If you have any questions about the information in this article or any other health, safety or environmental issue, please contact me at or by phone,
toll-free, at 866-723-3987.

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