How to safely dispose of old fire extinguishers

Proper care, servicing and maintenance will ensure fire extinguishers remain in working order and perform as they should in the event of a fire. However, for many reasons, an extinguisher will not last forever and will eventually need replacing. Here, we take a look at the expected lifespan of a fire extinguisher and explain the steps to take when the time comes to replace it.

Maintaining and caring for fire extinguishers

Annual servicing of extinguishers is vital, important and ensures compliance with best practice as laid out in BS5306. Generally, an extinguisher will remain unused for most of its life but environmental changes, vandalism and other external influences may have occurred during a year, along with changes to building use, installation of new processes and equipment. Extinguisher servicing by a competent person goes beyond simply ensuring the fire extinguisher is in good working order – it also embraces a living risk assessment so the correct cover is available in a safe and orderly manner.

Replacing old fire extinguishers

If the results of a recent service haven’t shown the fire extinguisher to be in as healthy a condition as it should, consideration should be given as to the best option. In some cases, a repair or refill may be economical, whereas in other circumstances to replace it may make the best financial sense. The competent person will advise here. Where a replacement unit is deemed the correction action, the old extinguisher should be disposed of responsibly and in a safe manner – it should never be simply thrown in the bin. This pressurised container can cause widespread damage if not handled and recycled correctly.

Fire extinguishers should be taken to a recycling centre, which will ensure their safe disposal. The extinguishers will be discharged in accordance with regulations and dismantled into each recyclable waste stream. This will include various metal parts, plastic, rubber and, where possible, the extinguishing medium. No chemicals or contents other than water are allowed to enter drains and waterways. The approved recycling centre will ensure total compliance to these strict regulations.  

The importance of fire extinguisher maintenance cannot be underestimated. The choice of a professional, competent, third-party approved person or organisation to regularly check, service, inspect and risk assess this life-saving equipment is crucial – not only for safety measures but also to comply with best practice as set out in the law.

The content of the CheckFire blog is for general information purposes only. While we make every effort to ensure accuracy at the time of publication, under no circumstances should it be considered professional advice. Any reliance you place on the information is at your own risk. Always seek the advice of a fire professional for your particular circumstances and requirements.
  • by Toria Jones