For most business leaders and commercial property owners, the frequency and need for fire extinguisher testing can be a rather foggy subject. For the most part, a fire extinguisher will sit in its rightful place for the duration of its life and go unnoticed, but regular checks are crucial to ensure they are fully operational if in the unlikely event a fire breaks out.
According to the British Standard for fire extinguishers, a fully qualified technician should be carrying out a basic service every year at a minimum. But that is just the basics.
Although not mandatory, UK fire regulations state that extinguishers should be replaced every 5 years and CO2 extinguishers every 10 years, assuming they are fully operational. Any extinguishers showing clear signs of damage, discharge or failure to operate must be replaced immediately.
In busier offices and commercial buildings with high traffic levels, fire extinguishers can get knocked, dented, disturbed or moved completely from their correctly assigned position. It is not uncommon to find fire extinguishers being used as common door stops or have vital signage move or removed entirely.
It is therefore highly advised that a fire warden or marshal runs basic checks every month to ensure extinguishers haven’t been moved inadvertently, knocked or tempered with that may affect their use and the correct operational pressure is intact. All details should be kept in a log book, with any issues or concerns marked and dated.
Anything that appears of major concern should be inspected by a qualified person to British Standard 5306.
Fire extinguishers require mandatory inspections each year. Much like a car MOT to ensure all is in order and running safely, extinguishers should be treated in the exact same way.
A qualified inspector will check the tamper seal is present which holds the safety pin in place, preventing any accidental discharge. If present, this tells the inspector whether the extinguisher has ever been used at any stage or not.
They’ll also check the pressure gauge is working as normal and that the canister is correctly pressurised. Finally, they’ll also do a visual check over the extinguisher housing to ensure there’s no obvious signs of corrosion and the hose looks to be in good working order.
Failure to carry out an annual inspection will result in a substantial fine for any business, corporation or public building for non-conformity.
If a fire extinguisher reaches its fifth year, an extended annual service will need to be carried out. This involves the same checks as a standard annual service plus checks over the internal and operating conditions.
This involves a discharge test to ensure the extinguisher canister fully empties, thus allowing for an internal visual inspection. If the canister passes inspection, it will be freshly refilled and re-pressurised ready for use.
If however some or all of the above fails, a replacement extinguisher will be required which in many cases is the more economical option.
Regular fire extinguisher inspections should not be treated as a reactive maintenance issue and should form part of a regular scheduled maintenance plan.
If your building is not complying, you could be endangering your employees and the people that work there. So if you need to get your fire safety mechanisms in place and in order, speak to our qualified fire extinguisher testing team to help get you back on track.