Looking at the current law, the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005* states:
17.—(1) Where necessary in order to safeguard the safety of relevant persons the responsible person must ensure that the premises and any facilities, equipment and devices provided in respect of the premises under this Order or, subject to paragraph (6), under any other enactment, including any enactment repealed or revoked by this Order, are subject to a suitable system of maintenance and are maintained in an efficient state, in efficient working order and in good repair.”
From this it follows that fire extinguishers and fire blankets require a servicing regime. The legislation also says in Article 18:
“The responsible person must, subject to paragraphs (6) and (7), appoint one or more competent persons to assist him in undertaking the preventive and protective measures.”
Therefore, whoever assists the responsible person with their duty to maintain the protective measures must be competent. You can’t just ask anyone to service your extinguishers as they need to be competent - but what does this actually mean?
Paragraphs 6 & 7 of the Fire Safety Order allow the responsible person to be a competent person if they have sufficient training and experience or knowledge and other qualities to properly assist in undertaking the preventive and protective measures. But how many people are trained and equipped to service their extinguishers?
How do you establish the competency of those you choose to service your extinguishers?
One option is to use a company who are Third Party Certified via the BAFE SP101 Scheme for the Maintenance of Portable Extinguishers. Make sure that any prospective provider claiming BAFE certification is actually certified on the extinguisher scheme as several are only certified on the fire alarm scheme, while others aren’t certified at all, but have a member of staff who took the BAFE extinguisher technician exam.
For more than 30 years, the competency of extinguisher service technicians has been tested via a 4-day training course delivered by one of the fire trade bodies approved providers. This culminates in the FETA (now BAFE) “Theory and practice of servicing portable fire extinguishers in accordance with the requirements of BS 5306 Parts 3 and 8” Examination. This is an assessment process that is both theoretical and practical.
This qualification has to be renewed every 3 years via a 1-day refresher, followed by an assessment, in order to continue to be able to claim compliance with BS 5306 in servicing and as an ongoing demonstration of compliance.
The competent technician will have a large assortment of service tools and consumables for all current extinguishers and should carry out a large number of different checks each year including:
|Full visual examination for damage/corrosion
|Fully removing the safety pin to check for free movement, breaking the tamper seal (or the actual pin for some brands) and replacing the pin & seal or whole OK pin
|Checking weight against commissioning weight
|Removing the hose or horn and blowing air down to check for obstruction – refitting with new O-rings/washers
|Removing the seal on the pressure gauge and using a special tool to check for free movement and placing a new seal on it
|Cartridge extinguishers should be opened up & fully stripped down to examine the valve, dip tube, interior and weigh the CO2 cartridge
At certain intervals (10 yearly for CO2, 5 yearly for other types of extinguisher) further actions are required where additional training and equipment is needed, as refilling, strip down and for CO2, pressure testing, is indicated.
Failing to carry out the full-service actions, or not using the correct components for the model of extinguisher can impede the operation or reduce the effectiveness of the extinguisher and in some cases leave it in dangerous condition.
Servicing an extinguisher starts from the moment it is first installed with the Commissioning Service. Users may be tempted by the prices of online and catalogue companies supplying extinguishers, but need to ask are they competent to commission that extinguisher? Can they record the initial weight for ongoing service, reseal the pin after checking it, test the gauge to make sure it reads true, recognise in transit damage or pressure loss, correctly and tightly fit hoses and horns? It’s a common sight for extinguishers bought this way to have damage affecting function, lost pressure, and loose or missing hoses and horns.
Some extinguishers are designed and marketed to be fully user maintained and indeed the legislation is written in such a way that this isn’t precluded. However, users need to ask themselves how they can prove they are competent to do this? (as the legislation requires this even where responsible persons take on fire safety related roles directly). Do they really know what they are doing (and equally as importantly why they are doing it); what to do if something is wrong; and most important of all, will they remember to do the annual checks?
In summary the modern extinguisher is a powerful piece of equipment, but like any piece of equipment, it needs maintenance to remain effective – and not just any maintenance but maintenance carried out by a competent person.
*The fire safety legislation in Scotland and Northern Ireland is similarly framed.
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The information contained within this blog is provided solely for general informational and educational purposes and is not intended as a substitute for professional advice. Before taking any actions based upon this information, we advise the reader to consult any and all relevant statutory or regulatory guidance and where felt necessary to consult a qualified fire or industry regulation professional. The use or reliance on any information contained herein is solely at the reader’s risk.