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Home :: Care And Maintenance Of Your Fire Extinguishers And Fire Safety Equipment

Care And Maintenance Of Your Fire Extinguishers And Fire Safety Equipment



Back to 1st page - Fire extinguisher chart

Section 1 - Classes of fire and fire extinguisher types

Section 2 - How many extinguishers do you need?

Section 3 - Where to position your fire fighting equipment

Section 4 - Different ways to wall hang or stand your extinguishers

Next Section 6 - How to save money on your maintenance

To Wall Hang Or Stand Your Extinguishers

Any item of safety equipment needs regular checking to ensure it works first time every time when needed. And, if that is not reason enough, to comply with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 - the Fire Regs - your fire fighting equipment must be maintained in accordance with the recognized British Standard.

The British Standard for fire extinguisher maintenance is BS 5306 part 3 2009 and this states that an extinguisher must be serviced "at least annually".

Once a year is plenty for most of us unless you work in a high risk or damaging environment such as bulk fuel storage, underground, marine, nuclear processing, etc. In these locations, more frequent inspections may be necessary.

This maintenance should only be performed by a "competent person". That would be someone with the necessary training, qualification, experience, tools, refilling equipment and manufacturer's documentation.

In the UK we do not have any legal requirement for a service technician to be "qualified" to BS5306 part 3 and BS5306 part 8. There are UK training courses and these require a 3-yearly refresher to keep up to date.

BAFE (British Approvals for Fire Equipment) operates various schemes, too. The trade associations tend to demand proof of qualification to join their ranks.

You may be surprised to hear how many "technicians" have never taken a training course or refresher. So, we strongly recommend you only use a qualified technician and that you check their ID, their ability to maintain the make and models that you have, their Efficacy Insurance (if they don't have this and the equipment fails, there may be no cover), and their last refresher training.

What Does The Maintenance Involve?

These days, fire extinguishers are quite simple to maintain as they are usually stored pressure (with a pressure gauge) operation which means they cannot be opened without being set off.

The technician will check for dents, rust, cracks, pressure gauge operation, safety pin being straight (a bent pin will not come out!), anti-tamper seals or OK indicators intact, correct weights, blocked or cracked hose, discharge test dates, head-cap degradation, o-ring and washer condition, pressure relief valves, location, wall-mounting, labeling and various other bits and bobs.

If it is cartridge operated, he or she will empty the content before, in addition to most of the above, checking the interior condition or lining, contents, discharge tube, filters, cartridge dates and weight and the various o-rings, bands, washers or tubes.

Upon completion, a maintenance label will be stuck on the back with the correct information filled in. This label will have the service company contact details on it.

In addition, you should be given a detailed written report or certificate with all that was done and the parts used and the technician should fill in your fire log book (yes, you should have one of these on all premises).

Discharge Testing, Extended Service and Overhaul

For most extinguishers, they will need a discharge test or "extended service" every five years. This involves the technician setting off the extinguisher to ensure that it works exactly as intended and, providing it passes, he then refills it and leaves it in good working order.

In reality, it is virtually impossible to discharge a powder extinguisher due to the mess. The use of powder discharge bags does not really work and, in practice, it is not worth the technician's time and trouble to test powder extinguishers outside of a workshop.

And foam, wet chemical or water additives may not be welcome into drains or the water system due to environmental concerns.

Where discharge testing is not possible, service exchange is common. This involves exchanging a ready tested or refurbished unit and taking the to-be-tested unit away. It also removes the risk of failure and replacement.

Sealed-unit powder (only sold through the Nu-swift or London Securities Group companies) and CO2 extinguishers need an overhaul service at 10 years.

This is a workshop service and will involve a hydraulic pressure test to comply with pressure vessel legislation and a new valve. In practice, these will be service exchanged as well.

Your Monthly Inspection Responsibilities

To compliment the annual maintenance by your service company, you or someone within your company have a responsibility to carry out monthly or regular inspections of the fire extinguishers.

This is not difficult to do and should not take much time at all with an inspection needing to include checking that:

  1. The correct items in the correct location and the bracket or stand and are easily visible and accessible

  2. There are no signs of accidental or malicious damage or dents

  3. Anti-tamper seals, lead seals, OK indicators, etc, are in place. Missing ones may indicate that the unit has been used

  4. The safety pin is straight and can move freely - being careful not to break the anti-tamper seal

  5. The pressure gauge, if fitted, is showing the needle in the green section

Your inspections should be recorded in the fire safety log book.



Back to 1st page - Fire extinguisher chart

Section 1 - Classes of fire and fire extinguisher types

Section 2 - How many extinguishers do you need?

Section 3 - Where to position your fire fighting equipment

Section 4 - Different ways to wall hang or stand your extinguishers

Next Section 6 - How to save money on your maintenance