Life-Safety Equipment and Location Inspections

Ensuring that life-safety equipment and locations are regularly inspected can help reduce risks associated with disasters and in fact is the responsibility of the building owner and/or property manager.

It is critical that staff conducting inspections know all the equipment locations and proper inspection procedures. A slip-up from gross negligence cannot only be costly, but also has the potential to damage a building owner’s and/or management company’s reputation and leave them defending their actions to governing bodies.

The law

Provincial legislation and particular insurance policies dictate the frequency of life-safety equipment and location inspections. The Ontario Fire Code ( mandates that equipment such as fire extinguishers must be inspected every 30 days (monthly). Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act states that inspections of electrical rooms, first aid kits, eye wash stations and so forth must be conducted at intervals that will prevent the development of unsafe working conditions.

Legislation also identifies the types of deficiencies and conditions to look for during these inspections. If a deficiency is found during an inspection, it’s important to quickly resolve it. For example, for fire equipment, the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) 10 7.2.3 states that when an inspection of any extinguisher reveals a deficiency, immediate corrective action shall be taken. (The consequences of not taking immediate action and an accident occurring is a fine not more than $50,000 or imprisonment for a term of not more than one year, or both, per Ontario’s Fire Protection and Prevention Act.) Not checking or knowing that a particular piece of equipment or location requires attention will not absolve the responsible party of negligence.

The tools

The use of a pen and paper to record inspections is still common. Staff members or third-party contractors are assigned particular locations to inspect along with a corresponding checklist of items. As equipment and/or locations are inspected, any deficiencies are recorded in a note section. These inspection sheets are then submitted to management for review. Management verifies the sheet and contacts the appropriate personnel regarding any deficiencies.

Software solutions are now also available to facilitate inspections. Staff members or third-party contractors are similarly assigned locations to inspect. The individual then goes to each location, which will have already been logged into the software database with its specifications (i.e. the size of a fire extinguisher). The equipment or location has an existing Near Field Communication (NFC) tag affixed to it, and staff members use scanners to complete their inspections. Upon scanning an NFC tag, the staff member is prompted to select from options that indicate whether the equipment is in order, missing or requires service. The software includes help and instructions on what to look for to guide staff conducting inspections.

The inspection results are logged into a database. If any deficiencies are identified, they are automatically sent to pre-programmed personnel, such as property management or relevant contractors. The software provides users with an overview of the building that indicates which equipment and locations have and have not been inspected, and which are deficient.

Disasters happen, but being prepared can help reduce safety risks and protect a building owner and/or management company from both brand damage and legal liability. Being duly diligent and ensuring everything is in order before disasters strike requires proper and regular inspections of life-safety equipment and locations. Managing this process to keep up-to-date on inspections and to immediately resolve deficiencies is critical to the overall success of preventing unwanted events.

Paul Amendola is the chief executive officer of Tap Report., a Toronto- based firm that specializes in software solutions for safety inspections, occupant accountability during evacuations and mass notifications.