Specifying and installing the correct fire safety equipment is critical and mandatory and is the first, and very important step, to protect you, the people around you and your property. However, it doesn’t end with installation. You need to be absolutely certain the units will work as they should if and when they’re needed – and that requires routine inspections and maintenance. You also need to regularly check that they are the correct type of extinguishers for the environment. We can make changes to the building and processes within the building and yet easily forget to check if these changes need a different type of fire cover.
Portable fire extinguishers can be the means of escape as well as fighting the fire so it’s vital you know they’re compliant. Here, we take a look at why regular servicing of this life-saving equipment is so crucial and what can be done regularly to ensure they remain efficient, effective, and fit for purpose.
The role of the ‘responsible person’
The responsible person – so named under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 – is defined as the employer in relation to a workplace or in other scenarios, simply the person who has control of the premises. As well as being responsible for risk assessment in the premises and equipping it with the right fire safety equipment, as the responsible person, you must also ensure that equipment is maintained in an efficient state and is in good repair. You have an obligation to arrange regular servicing from a competent and qualified organisation. Professional servicing and maintenance by a competent person is very important for fire protection equipment. That person/organisation will not only ensure the equipment is in good working order but also make sure the extinguisher type and location is correct. The equipment can be subject to damage, misuse and will require periodic testing. The competent person will identify this and carry out the work appropriately.
All types of fire extinguishers should undergo a service. Legislation requires that you are responsible for using a competent person to maintain your equipment. As a minimum, this should be undertaken once a year in accordance with BS 5306-3: 2017.
The qualified technician will have detailed knowledge of different types of fire extinguishers and the correct installation and application, safe methods of inspection of pressure vessels and use of specialist equipment. They will also have qualifications and training to provide quality advice and ensure you comply with the law. The BS 5306-3: 2017 update saw the introduction of a new section that requires you to obtain the fire risk assessment for the technician before they carry out any maintenance. Having access to this ensures they’re armed with any notable information to justify actions in the fire risk assessment that may vary from the minimum scale of provision outlined in BS 5306-8.
Competency is key and cannot be emphasised enough. This equipment should not be maintained by an untrained or unqualified person.
Fire extinguisher service: What to expect
The annual service involves a thorough inspection of the extinguisher for corrosion or discharge. Further checks and other factors that may compromise the safety or performance of the unit include (but aren’t limited to):
Take time to familiarise yourself with the 2017 regulations update for installing and maintaining portable fire extinguishers. The industry standard was updated to reflect changes in products as well as environmental considerations. It includes changes to basic checks and weight tolerances. It also features a new section that requires the engineer to view a copy of the risk assessment for the premises before servicing the extinguisher.
Our BS 5306-3:2017 update infographic explains the amends and additions in more detail.
Visual inspections undertaken by business owners
While a thorough inspection is carried out annually by a trained professional, you shouldn’t simply ignore your extinguishers for the rest of the year. Visually check over all fire extinguishers at least once a month. Make sure that each extinguisher is correctly in its designated place and that it’s visible and easy to access. Instructions for use should be clear and all seals should be intact.
The importance of correct maintenance and servicing of your fire extinguishers shouldn’t ever be underestimated. An annual service carried out by a competent professional with the right qualifications, training, equipment and expertise is essential – and what’s more, it might just save a life.