Fire extinguishers are a must-have fire safety feature for all businesses and non-domestic premises. Although most establishments have at least one fire extinguisher in stock, many people forget how long they have had them.
It is important to remember that fire extinguishers degrade over time. With that in mind, you might begin to wonder: how long exactly can a fire extinguisher last before it expires?
Shelf Life of a Fire Extinguisher
A fire extinguisher’s shelf life will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer – it can last anywhere from 3 to 12 years. Look for the tag (typically located at the bottom of the fire extinguisher); for the expiration date and manufacturer’s instructions.
For those who have had their fire extinguishers for a long time, it is recommended that you have them hydrostatically tested.
Hydrostatic testing is a method whereby your fire extinguisher will be exposed to high pressure (around 500psi) to check its critical components such as the shell, cylinder, hose, etc. – by pressurising it with liquid it can be determined whether the fire extinguisher has any leaks or structural flaws.
Take note that according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), rechargeable fire extinguishers must be hydrostatically tested and recharged every 6 years. For non-rechargeable fire extinguishers, you should replace them every 12 years; unless the manufacturer states an earlier expiration date.
Signs of Damage
Like most equipment, fire extinguishers can become defective if they have been stored for too long: it is strongly advised that they undergo routine checks in all locations to ensure that they are still functioning to capacity.
Potential fire extinguisher problems include:
- The seal on the neck of the fire extinguisher can weaken or break; this allows the compressed air to escape, causing the internal pressure to drop. The retardant chemicals will then lose force which might mean that they don’t push out properly during use. An easy solution; simply replace the seal.
- The powder base of the fire extinguisher may settle at the bottom of the canister and get packed down. To avoid this, gently shake your fire extinguisher a few times every year.
You can also inspect your fire extinguisher for the following signs of damage:
- Crack on the hose or nozzle
- Broken, missing or wobbly handle
- Missing or unsealed pin
- Dented or rusted cylinder
- Lack of inspection tag
Fire extinguishers should be serviced or replaced immediately if you notice anything irregular. Fire Services Central Ltd. offers a comprehensive fire extinguisher service that can be tailored to suit your needs. Contact us on 0121 525 1976 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for further assistance.