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#1
Old 08-10-2005, 02:41 PM
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Join Date: Mar 1999
Location: San Francisco area
Posts: 16,104
Fire extinguisher inspections vs replacement

Paging danceswithcats and all other smoke eaters...

I just found out that the fire extinguishers belonging to my non-profit group may be improperly inspected.

They're all wearing tags that say they were inspected by such-and-such fire extinguisher company last year, but their "collars" have dates from previous years. Also, one that I looked had has a manufacture date of 1990. Nothing wrong with that, as long as it's been hydrostatically tested 12 years after manufacture. Only problem is that there's no hydro test label on it. (One of my own extinguishers does have a large and distinctive label detailing the test date and PSI)

Basically, it looks like the fire extinguisher company has just been changing tags all these years without doing the required inspections and tests.

The obvious danger is that if there is a fire, the extinguisher might not work. If that happens, who might be held liable for damage or injuries? Us, for having uninspected/untested extinguishers or the company that affixed their tag saying that it has been inspected?

If it were up to me, I'd just chuck the old ones that need hydro testing and buy new ones. Speaking of which, why are we paying $35 per extinguisher each year to have someone inspect and change tags when we could buy new ones each year for less and skip the whole inspection process?
#2
Old 08-10-2005, 03:20 PM
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Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: Pratts, Mississippi
Posts: 6,246
I ran a small company and paid for fire extinguishers to be inspected. When I retired I brought a couple of them home. I recently had a reason to have those updated. I took them by the company that I used to pay. They inspected them and didn't charge me at all. They ran a test, but besides that all they did was put on a new tag. They were very friendly and told me to come back.

So like you, it seems silly to pay to have the inspection. Perhaps you aren't as acquainted with OSHA as I was. There are billions of dollars spent on stupid stuff just to meet their requirements. That doesn't mean OSHA is all bad, but anyone that wants to make lots of money, pay attention to what new rules they are considering and see how you can supply the need that will be created.
#3
Old 08-10-2005, 04:15 PM
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Join Date: Nov 2000
Location: Southeast Michigan, USA
Posts: 10,351
Donít municipal fire departments still examine and certify extinguishers for free?
#4
Old 08-10-2005, 04:18 PM
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Join Date: Mar 1999
Location: San Francisco area
Posts: 16,104
I'm guessing you got the free inspection based on years of business you've given them, rather than any knowledge of OSHA.

Besides, OSHA doesn't apply to us. Just the property owner and our insurance company.

I did find that we're being horribly overcharged for inspections. Another local shop says thel'll do it for $14 each, and hydro tests for $29 each.
#5
Old 08-10-2005, 09:04 PM
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Join Date: Sep 2000
Location: Northern Idaho
Posts: 1,374
Holy Smokes, must be time for a price increase!

You've been taken to the cleaners it sounds like. The "proof of service" collar is the only proof that the extinguisher was properly recharged. Technically, that's good for six years, but the extinguisher still has to be "serviced" every year, usually to comply with state laws, or insurance company policies.

While I break down nearly every extinguisher every year, the industry is rife with what we call "rag and taggers", meaning that they wipe the dust off the extinguisher and put a new tag on them.

I charge 9.50 for the common stored pressure extinguisher and that includes complete breakdown, and a new "o" ring.

12 year hydrotests are 12.50.

As far as who's responsible for failure? There's lots that plays into that. If the tag is still current and not expired, and you have a monthly inspection program in place where someone eyeballs the gauge and initials the back of the tag, then theoretically, the fire extinguisher company is at fault. The down side of that is that rag and taggers often operate without proper insurance.

If the tag is expired, your business is pretty much assumed at fault. The insurance companies and lawyers will have a field day.
#6
Old 08-10-2005, 09:56 PM
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Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: Voting anti-obamanation
Posts: 10,300
First of all, what type of extinguishers are they? Pressurized water, CO2, dry chemical or other type?

NFPA 10 is the standard for "Portable Fire Extinguishers" and was last updated in 2002.

Further, what is the occupancy, and what input has the AHJ or authority having jurisdiction to your continued use of the space? Typically the AHJ as in Fire Marshal or Code Enforcement Officer will visit the occupancy on a regular basis and check fire protection as part of that inspection. If extinguishers with out of date hydro are allowed to remain in service, then the company doing the tagging is well outside compliance with the standard.

Feel free to shoot me an email if you'd like to avoid a lengthy post.
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#7
Old 08-11-2005, 06:56 AM
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Join Date: Mar 1999
Location: Contra Costa County, CA
Posts: 1,067
I coordinate "fleet maintenance" at my work and have 30 vehicles (with 30 very different "union mindset" techs) that I must schedule all necessary inspections for throughout the year. Twice a year we have a FE company come out and "recharge" any expelled FE's and tag the rest. This is a BIT issue and if one of my drivers is pulled over and inspected, we get nasty notes from CHP if there's anything not kosher. My experience is that the FE tech physically evaluates each FE, repressurizes if needed and replaces said O-ring. That costs about $15 bucks apiece. FWIW, they charge like $40 for a new 10lb extinguisher.
#8
Old 08-11-2005, 02:19 PM
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Join Date: Mar 1999
Location: San Francisco area
Posts: 16,104
They're just your basic ten-pound 2A:10BC dry.

"Occupancy" isn't exactly the right term. The time that we actually care about them is during the run of our Renaissance Faire - we're required to have one extinguisher and a smoke detector in each of our buildings. "Buildings" isn't exactly the right term either. They're 8x16 foot plywood shacks that are assembled in August and stand through October. End of October, they're disassembled and stored.

During the rest of the year, I encourage people to take an extinguisher home and bring it back next year - they're of no use sitting in a storage unit.

It's sounding like we're OK on the annual inspections, even if they are just rag and tag. Not so sure on which ones may need hydro testing. But, we'll at least be changing service companies, and even if every single one needs hydro, it's still cheaper than what we were paying.

Fairly pointless trivia - we never use the word fire at Faire. The word to keep your ears tuned for is carbon condition.
#9
Old 08-11-2005, 02:32 PM
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Join Date: Sep 2000
Location: Northern Idaho
Posts: 1,374
Got that right...carbon condition!!

It never hurts to shop around for price. Fire extinguisher service is a real competative field, so it can be pretty cutthroat. I didn't notice that your are in California. California has some pretty strenuous local codes and compliance regulations individual to California only.

Next time you have them done, watch them service a couple, just so you know the process and have the oportunity to ask questions. If they are charging you that much, they should certainly be breaking them all down every year. Gauges can lie. When I'm drumming up new business I always carry a gauge in my shirt pocket that is stuck "in the green", just to show customers that say their extinguisher is fine because it still says it's charged.

My insurance costs me an arm and two legs, so I don't cut any corners, and go way beyond the minimum requirements of NFPA 10, I haven't had a claim in 20 years in the business and plan to keep it that way! Besides a new service collar every year is a great selling point when I come behind another outfit that just breaks them down every six years.
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