Fire Extinguisher Servicing: Most Common Issues Found
We all hope that premises with fire extinguishers will never need to use them. However, it is essential that if they are required, they’re in good working order.
Ensuring fire extinguishers work as they should can be the difference between containing a fire and allowing it to get out of control. Because of this, there are strict penalties for failing to adhere to The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RRO) in England and Wales. Even just one fire extinguisher not working correctly can have a heavy impact on the safety of individuals.
That’s where fire extinguisher servicing comes in. This is an essential task carried out to ensure that these extinguishers are in full working order. We’re going to take a look at the most common issues found when carrying out a fire extinguisher servicing to help minimise risk and maximise safety.
What Is Fire Extinguisher Servicing?
An annual fire extinguisher service is required by law and must be carried out by a BAFE-registered professional. Servicing is different to the regular maintenance of fire extinguishers, which should be carried out by the responsible person.
Compared to this regular maintenance, servicing involves a much closer look at the extinguishers, such as ensuring they are pressurised correctly and in full working order.
During a fire extinguisher service, your fire extinguishers will:
- Be visually inspected: This is to ensure there is no sign of damage and to make sure the tamper seal is in place. The pressure gauge will also be checked to see if it works and has the right pressure range.
- Have the hose inspected: The discharge hose will be checked for damage or blockages, and the ‘O’ ring will be replaced.
- Have their positioning checked: The correct positioning of portable fire extinguishers is essential for fire safety. The instructions must also be clearly visible.
- Be weighed: Fire extinguishers will be weighed with the results noted on the fire extinguisher label.
- Be cleaned: If the fire extinguishers require cleaning, this will take place to ensure they are ready to be used if needed.
- Have their wall mountings checked: It is important the fire extinguishers are stored safely. If they are stored incorrectly, they could fall and sustain damage, pose a trip hazard, or even hit someone.
Extended fire extinguisher servicing should take place every 5 years for foam, powder, and water extinguishers. Extended fire extinguishers services consist of the following additional actions:
- Discharge test
- Valve overhaul
- All elements of annual fire extinguisher services
CO2 fire extinguishers will need to be sent to approved centres to be tested every 10 years. This is because hydraulic testing will need to be carried out and the main valve must be replaced.
Importance Of Regular Fire Extinguisher Servicing
In addition to ensuring that you have the right type of fire extinguisher for your workplace, regularly servicing fire extinguishers to keep them in great working condition is essential for a safe and compliant workplace.
The RRO states that premises must be equipped with suitable fire-fighting equipment. The person appointed in the fire safety role is responsible for providing adequate equipment. They must also ensure other people in the workplace have the correct training.
All fire extinguishers must be commissioned when initially positioned and should also undergo checks by a competent person. A nominated person must regularly check them for damage or tampering and to ensure they are stored in the correct position.
The company is responsible for arranging annual servicing from a certified extinguisher technician.
Most Common Issues Found During Fire Extinguisher Servicing
Ensuring fire protection equipment is well maintained will minimise the risk of issues during service. The most common issues found during portable fire extinguisher servicing include:
Fire extinguisher is obstructed
Fire extinguishers must be easily accessible in case of emergency. In some cases, a fire extinguisher may be obstructed by equipment, furniture, or doors. It may even be stored beneath a desk or in a cupboard.
If this is the case, the fire extinguisher should be repositioned and the obstructions removed.
Fire extinguishers should be located on natural travel paths like hallways or entrances. They should be positioned under a clear fire extinguisher sign.
Damage to the fire extinguisher
Over time, unused fire extinguishers can suffer bumps and scrapes or deteriorate. Fire extinguishers often go a long time without ever being used, and over this time they can get damaged.
Rust or dents only occur as a result of this and this can affect the safe operation of a fire extinguisher, depending on the level of damage. In this case, replacing the full extinguisher is recommended. It might also be useful to reconsider the placement of the fire extinguisher to reduce the risk of damage in the future.
Not charged correctly
As extinguishers are pressurised, it’s important that they have the correct charge so that they are used. The correct charge of a fire extinguisher should allow the discharge to reach between 10 to 20 feet. After use, extinguishers need to be recharged regardless of how much suppressant is still inside of the extinguisher. This is to ensure that they are always ready to be used in the event of a fire.
Undercharged extinguishers will have very little power and may not be able to extinguish fires safely. This can be an enormous safety risk as an undercharged extinguisher can end up being redundant in the event of a fire.
Overcharging is also a common issue. When a fire extinguisher is overcharged, it can put pressure on the operational elements resulting in leaks. It could also cause a cylinder to explode in extreme circumstances.
In this situation, the extinguisher should be returned to the manufacturer to be recharged or replaced.
The lock pin is missing or the seal is broken
Locking pins and seals help to prevent the accidental discharge of fire extinguishers. They also help to act as an indicator for an extinguisher that has not been used yet. However, lock pins can go missing or get damaged for various reasons. Regular checks help to ensure that your extinguishers’ lock pins or seals are kept in good condition.
Keeping spare seals or pins can be useful if they go missing. Alternatively, you will be able to pick them up at your hardware store or from the manufacturer. These should also always be replaced after training to ensure the extinguisher is safe.
Fire extinguisher is poorly placed
When fire extinguishers are poorly placed, it can pose a potential safety hazard and cause damage to the extinguishers. This is a very common issue that is found, similar to extinguishers being often obstructed. To avoid this, fire extinguishers should be kept off the ground to minimise the risk of them becoming a trip hazard. This is especially true in the case of an emergency.
Fire extinguishers that are placed too close to the ground can also cause damage to it as a result of changing floor temperatures. This can affect the pressure so they should be kept in a wall bracket or extinguisher stand. Fire extinguishers should be placed around 3.5/4 feet above the ground and mounted on a wall with the use of a bracket.
The hose should be regularly checked for blockages by a competent person. You will be able to remove the hose and check it for blockages. If you can’t clear the blockage, you may need to replace the hose. The ‘O’ ring may also have deteriorated and might need to be replaced.
Ensuring fire extinguishers get an annual service by a certified professional is essential. Monthly visual inspections should also be carried out by a competent person. This will ensure annual maintenance checks go smoothly.
Here at MCFP, we provide fire safety equipment and training to ensure businesses are prepared to deal with emergencies. We also offer fire extinguisher servicing services carried out by BAFE-registered professionals.
We can help with fire extinguisher services, fire safety equipment, and fire risk assessment to ensure your workplace is kept safe. If you have any questions, contact MCFP today, and we will be happy to help!