Why should fire extinguishers be maintained? Simple really, they are there to protect against fires so why would we want to use an extinguisher that hasn’t been looked after properly to try and keep us safe from fire. Fire extinguishers are a vital part of fire safety, but all too often they are being misused as door stops or left in a corner and forgotten about.
Fire extinguishers play a very important role in the first aid fire-fighting. They can be the difference between a small localised incident that is quickly put out, and the fire and rescue service arriving and finding a large fire which is putting lives, property and the environment at risk. Fire extinguishers are provided to give first aid fire-fighting capability, in the event of a fire incident, you’d certainly want the extinguisher to work as expected. As such, there is a need for proper maintenance. For example, if the safety pin in the extinguisher has corroded, it could mean that the pin cannot be removed, rendering the fire extinguisher inoperable.
All fire extinguishers fitted in commercial, public or residential buildings require regular tests and inspections. The Fire (Scotland) Act 2005 and Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 places full responsibility for Extinguisher servicing with the owner/employer within all commercial properties. In order to remain safe, the British Standard Code of Practice BS5306-3:2009 recommends that your fire extinguishers are serviced at least once a year by qualified technicians.
When you first receive your fire extinguishers, they must first be commissioned. This means they must be assembled in the correct manner and a number of checks being performed on them to ensure they are effective from the day they are purchased. Once all the checks have been completed, a maintenance log will be attached to the extinguisher, detailing important information such as:
- The date
- The weight of the extinguisher
- Initials of the technicians carrying out the checks
- The next service date
- The extended service date
This log will be updated every year by the trained technician, who will subject the extinguisher to the appropriate service.
In addition to the annual fire extinguisher servicing, fire extinguishers should receive a monthly visual check to ensure it still looks operable and that there is no visible wear and tear. This means checking that the extinguisher is still in its original shape, the handles haven’t been bent and the hose or horn on the extinguisher is still intact. The first image below shows a fire extinguisher that has been properly maintained – the pin is still intact with the tamper tag also going around the handle and through the pin loop; body of the extinguisher and hose are all still in perfect condition.
The next two images show a badly looked after extinguisher which has become inoperable due to the handle being badly damaged.
One part of an extinguisher in particular, that is very important to have changed annually during its servicing is a part that is not visible called the O-ring. O-rings are in a static application and will have taken compression set, so when a fire extinguisher is serviced, the O-ring will not return to its correct size and will lose its ability to create the perfect seal, this can lead to a in loss of pressure, resulting in the fire extinguisher not being able to operate efficiently. When a fire extinguisher is produced by the manufacturer it will often have a black O-ring, companies will then use a different colour each year to show that they are being changed annually. Recently we have found this is one area that technicians have not been addressing appropriately.
Below are a few examples of O-rings we have encountered that have not been changed in fire extinguishers for quite some time.
The more warped and brittle the O-rings have become the more they affect the effectiveness of the fire extinguisher.
Is it really too much to ask that life safety systems and equipment be put through the appropriate testing and maintenance regimes? We don’t think so.
If you would like a credible, honest and trusted company to look after your fire extinguishers and ensure they are being properly serviced and maintained, please do not hesitate to contact us by phone or by email.