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Fire Extinguisher Servicing

The main relevant piece of legislation regarding fire extinguisher servicing is contained within British Standard 5306-3:2009 – Fire Extinguishing Installations and Equipment on Premises. Commissioning and Maintenance of Portable Fire Extinguishers. Code of Practice. This legislation has several requirements of an employer or landlord supplying fire extinguishers in their properties.

Firstly, visual inspections of all fire extinguishers should be carried out on a regular basis, at least monthly. A visual inspection is a straightforward check to make sure that the extinguisher is present where it should be, that the extinguisher is both unused and undamaged, that it has not been tampered with, can be seen and reached, that the usage instructions are still legible, and where applicable that the pressure gauge is within the right limits. These visual inspections should be suitably recorded and dated.

A basic annual service must also be carried out. The requirements of a basic service will vary according to the mode of operation (either stored pressure or cartridge) and the type of extinguishing agent inside.

Stored pressure extinguishers are pressurised containers, where the extinguishing agent is expelled once the pressure inside is released by the operating trigger. These types of extinguishers are usually water, foam, wet chemical and powder type extinguishers. The basic servicing regime is the same for all stored pressure extinguishers and comprises the following checks (summarised from Table D.2, Annex D of BS 5306:3), which should be carried out in this order:

Fire Extinguisher Servicing Checklist

  1. Check the safety clip and indicators to see if the extinguisher has been used.
  2. Check the pressure. This is simple if the extinguisher has a gauge fitted, but for those that do not, a special connecting device should be used to test it.
  3. Inspect the canister for damage e.g. corrosion, dents. Replace if necessary.
  4. Weigh the extinguisher (if more than 10% has been lost, a full recharge is required).
  5. Check that the operating instructions are legible and correct.
  6. If the operating head can be removed without discharging the instruction, this should be done and the mechanism checked and lubricated if needed.
  7. Remove and replace the safety pin, checking that the operating lever is undamaged and moves freely.
  8. Check that the hose, discharge horn and nozzle are not blocked and are undamaged. Replace the seals for these.

After this the extinguisher should be reassembled, and a written report should be compiled to detail the state of the unit. A label should be present on the canister to date the most recent inspection and the date of the next extended service.

Carbon Dioxide extinguishers vary slightly from the other types listed above as pressure is not tested here. All the other inspection points remain valid however.

Cartridge operated extinguishers are different in that the propellant is not located with the extinguishing agent but is located in a separate cartridge, which is pierced when the trigger is compressed, releasing the extinguishing agent. Water and powder agents can commonly be found as cartridge types (as well as stored pressure types). The basic service is the same as outlined above except the pressure check is not relevant so it is not carried out. The following additional checks are also made:

1. Open the extinguisher, remove the gas cartridge, and then:

  • For water extinguishers, pour out the contents from the body and check the interior for signs of corrosion. The original charge may be re-used after inspection if the liquid is still good, if not, replace with fresh.
  • For power extinguishers, check the powder for caking or lumps and re-charge if necessary. Check the interior body for corrosion.

2. Check the operating mechanism moves freely and that the air passages are unobstructed.

Additional Fire Extinguisher Servicing Requirements

In addition to the annual basic service required as part of fire extinguisher servicing, Halon and Carbon Dioxide extinguishers should have an overhaul once every ten years, and a more in-depth extended service should be carried out on all other types of extinguisher once every five years. An extended service involves an actual test discharge of the extinguishing agent, and an overhaul involves both a test discharge and a pressure test of the shell of the canister.

Fire extinguisher servicing is best carried out by a professional external company that is suitably qualified to do the job. When seeking to employ a professional company always look for BAFE accreditation (the British Approvals for Fire Equipment, the independent registration body for companies wishing to achieve third party certification in fire protection, which proves a high competency level in fire extinguisher service and maintenance that is in line with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.