The Complete Fire Extinguisher Servicing and Maintenance Guide
Fire extinguishers are an indispensable element of every building’s fire safety equipment and so you are legally required to have fire extinguisher servicing performed annually by a professional (as per fire extinguisher installation and maintenance code of practice – BS 5306-3:2017).
To avoid finding yourself in a dangerous situation when there is a fire but your fire extinguisher isn’t working, you should follow our guide on fire extinguisher servicing and maintenance below.
Why is fire extinguisher maintenance important?
Fire extinguisher maintenance is important because even without being used, fire extinguishers can degrade and sustain damage over time. A faulty fire extinguisher can be less effective and sometimes even completely ineffective. This could result in injury to the user and fire-related damages to both the building and the people in it.
According to the Fire Safety Order 2005, it is your legal responsibility to have your fire extinguishers tested by a professional every 12 months. Booking your annual fire extinguisher servicing ensures compliance with the existing rules and regulations.
Furthermore, the correct fire extinguisher maintenance can make the difference between having a fire under control quickly and efficiently, and facing injury, destruction and a potential tragedy.
How should a fire extinguisher be serviced?
There are three main things to remember about fire extinguisher servicing:
- Fire extinguishers must be serviced once a year
- Extensive fire extinguisher maintenance must be performed every 5 years
- The fire extinguisher servicing and maintenance must be done by a certified engineer
When a fire extinguisher servicing specialist comes over for their annual inspection, they will take a look at all four main parts of the fire extinguisher: tamper seal, gauge, body and hose. They will look for specific defects in each to determine whether your fire extinguisher is suitable for use.
The tamper seal
The tamper seal must be intact. This ensures that the safety pin is safely held in place and that the fire extinguisher hasn’t been discharged.
The pressure gauge
The pressure gauge is used to check whether there’s enough pressure in the fire extinguisher. For it to be functional, the needle must be in the green area of the gauge. The issue is that in some cases, damage or moisture can cause the needle to stick and prevent it from indicating a drop in pressure. So, your gauge could be showing that everything is fine while in reality, your fire extinguisher isn’t functional any more.
Extensive damage to the body of the fire extinguisher can cause it to explode and result in injury for the user. Therefore, during the fire extinguisher serving process, any dents, holes or signs of corrosion will be flagged by the inspector.
In addition to the physical state of the fire extinguisher body, the labelling will also be checked. For a fire extinguisher to be approved, all signage and instructions for use must be clearly legible. If they have faded significantly over time, the extinguisher will be considered unusable.
Just a small hole or tear in the hose can downgrade the efficiency rating of your fire extinguisher. If the hose is damaged, upon discharge the extinguishing substance can leak through the hose before it reaches the fire, making it much harder to control the fire.
The fire extinguisher service engineer will make sure that there is no visible damage anywhere on the fire extinguisher. Cartridge extinguishers will be opened and each element will be inspected. The mechanisms will be put to a test as well.
If any issues are found, the engineer will raise this with the responsible person and appropriate action will be taken. This may include decommissioning the fire extinguisher unit altogether and replacing it with a new one.
When should a fire extinguisher be serviced and by whom?
There are several scenarios when a fire extinguisher inspection is required. Here’s when you need an inspection and who can perform it:
- During installation: Also called commissioning service, the first-ever fire extinguisher test you will have to have done by a professional is at the time of installation to ensure that the unit is fit for purpose
- Monthly: A monthly inspection by a designated responsible person (not an engineer) at the building should be done each month to check for visible damage.
- Annually: The annual fire extinguisher inspection has to be conducted by a qualified engineer. This is a legal requirement.
- Every 5 years: An extensive maintenance inspection should be conducted every five years by a qualified engineer.
- In case of damage: If you see any signs of damage to your fire extinguisher during your monthly checks or at any other point, you should call a certified engineer to check those and ensure your unit is still functional.
The cost of fire extinguisher servicing
Every professional fire extinguisher servicing services should be able to provide a complete price list before you agree to book an inspection with one of their engineers. You should always be clear on what needs to be done and how much it will cost, so don’t be afraid to ask questions.
A one-off service charge will always have to be paid for your preferred service type – Basic (yearly) or Extended (every 5 years). This should include the servicing, plus the cost of the parts that will be replaced as part of the routine fire extinguisher maintenance procedure (gauge dots, o-rings and tamper seals). Any additional costs should be clearly specified.
As fire extinguishers maintenance has to be done regularly, you may want to consider a servicing plan for long-term maintenance, rather than having to schedule one-off services every time. It will likely help you save on the cost, as well.
Do all fire extinguishers need to be serviced?
In 2012, a new generation of service-free fire extinguishers was introduced. According to the official standards in the UK, if your fire extinguisher has a Britannia P50 kitemark, then you won’t need to call an engineer. The only fire extinguisher maintenance you will need to do is have the fire extinguisher visually inspected by the end user every 12 months.
The P50 fire extinguishers come in foam, powder, and wet chemical varieties and boast a guaranteed lifespan of ten years. As no refilling is required for a whole decade, they ate the most economic and eco-friendly fire extinguishers on the market.
How can Cardinal Fire help?
If you are a business owner in the West Midlands area, the expert fire safety specialists at Cardinal Fire offer exceptional fire extinguisher servicing, including inspections, testing, maintenance and guidance (see our guide to BS5839). With our certified fire safety engineers by your side, you can enjoy peace of mind knowing that your building and the people in it are protected in case of a fire incident.
Find out at-a-glance answers to your burning questions about fire extinguisher servicing and maintenance below. For any more information, just get in touch with the team at Cardinal Fire and we will be happy to help.
How often do fire extinguishers need servicing?
The legal requirement is to have a fire extinguisher inspection every 12 months.
Can anyone service a fire extinguisher?
A monthly fire extinguisher inspection can be done by anyone within the business who has had the appropriate training, such as the fire warden. However, the annual fire extinguisher inspection has to be performed by a qualified engineer.
What do I do with old fire extinguishers?
If your fire extinguisher has been flagged as faulty or it has expired and needs to be replaced you have to get in touch with the local fire authorities first to ask if they can help you with that. If they don’t offer such services, you should take your old fire extinguisher to a hazardous waste disposal site. The engineer performing the inspection should be able to advise you on the actions you need to take.
Does a new fire extinguisher need to be inspected?
Yes, when a new fire extinguisher is installed it has to be commissioned by a professional engineer, which means that a fire extinguisher inspection is required.
Do fire extinguishers expire?
Yes, each extinguisher has an expiration date. Most extinguishers last between 5-15 years as indicated by the manufacturer. Regular maintenance ensures that the lifespan of the unit is as long as possible.
Do old fire extinguishers need to be recharged?
Every fire extinguisher must be recharged every 5 years even if it has never been used. If it has been used or damaged has been found, it may need to be refilled sooner.
How often do fire extinguishers need to be maintained?
An extensive fire extinguisher inspection has to be carried out every 5 years to ensure that the fire extinguisher is properly maintained.