Monthly Inspections vs. Annual Maintenance on Fire Extinguishers

Q: During a recent survey, we were cited for not having monthly inspections on our extinguishers during the month of the annual inspection. We have never run into this before. Doesn’t the annual service include and go beyond a monthly check?

A: You would think so, wouldn’t you… But, technically speaking, no the annual maintenance does not include and go beyond the monthly inspection. There are differences between the monthly inspection and the annual maintenance, which are:

Monthly inspection (per NFPA 10):

Confirm the following:

  • Location in designated place;
  • No obstruction to access or visibility;
  • Operating instructions on nameplate legible and facing outward;
  • Safety seals and tamper indicators not broken or missing;
  • Fullness determined by hefting;
  • Examination for obvious physical damage, corrosion, leakage, or clogged nozzle;
  • Pressure gauge reading or indicator in the operable range;
  • Condition of tires, wheels, carriage, hose, and nozzle;
  • HMIS label is in place.

Annual Maintenance (per NFPA 10):

Perform the following:

  • Examine all mechanical parts;
  • External examination;
  • Pull pin and replace tamper seal.

So, you can see that the annual maintenance activities are entirely different than the monthly inspection activities. It is entirely possible that the person conducting the annual maintenance can also do the first monthly inspection, but that would have to be documented. Typically it would be documented on the tag on the fire extinguisher. If that was not documented then it did not happen.It appears to me that the surveyor who made that citation was very astute.