Fire extinguishers play an essential role in the suppression of small fires in the workplace. They are one of the first lines of defence against fire and it’s the responsibility of the company owner to make sure that all their extinguishers are serviced. Of course, it’s also just common sense to check on potentially life-saving devices regularly.
But what are some reasons that a fire extinguisher might fail? And how can we protect against them? Here’s what to look out for.
The main cylinder of the extinguisher is made from aluminium or steel. It is designed to withstand the internal forces of the pressurising gas. Over time, the metal may start to corrode or deteriorate from stress and this will compromise the structural integrity of the cylinder and cause the extinguisher to fail.
Your fire extinguisher service package will include regular evaluations of both the internal and external conditions of your fire extinguisher cylinder.
People, especially children, are understandably curious about fire extinguishers. If your fire extinguishers are in plain sight, there’s a chance that somebody could have tampered with them. Tampering can be anything from loosening the hose, removing the headcap seal or the locking pin, moving the extinguisher away from its designated point or discharging some of its contents. Sometimes the tampering is not intentional, like when an extinguisher is moved for cleaning or used as a door stop. But these things can still render the extinguisher unfit for purpose and non-compliant with the British Standard.
Your fire extinguishers will be checked for tampering during servicing. However, if you suspect that an extinguisher has been tampered with, you should call out your service provider to check and rectify any problems immediately, even if your service is not due. You might want to look into tamper resistant extinguisher cabinets or extinguisher covers if the problem persists.
The discharge hose on your fire extinguishers can become blocked by debris or insects over time. This can result in impaired function if you need to use it. The hose and connector O-rings can also deteriorate with time.
A service from a qualified engineer will include inspection of the fire extinguisher hose and any compression O-rings will be regularly replaced.
A fire extinguisher’s weight is clearly marked on each maintenance label. This is because the extinguisher’s weight is the easiest way to tell if the contents are as they should be. During a regular inspection, an engineer will weigh the extinguisher and compare it to its weight from the last inspection. If the extinguisher’s weight has dropped more than 10%, this is a clear indication of a leak, and the engineer will investigate what has caused it.
Many extinguishers also have a pressure gauge in the valve assembly, and this will also be tested during a routine service.
A fire extinguisher will experience general ‘wear and tear’ over the years, from fading labels to paint scuffs.
This might not seem like too big of a problem, but the consequences of this damage can be much greater than you’d think. As the maintenance label on the extinguishers become faded the important information that the service technician needs become illegible. If the instruction label is damaged then a user might choose the wrong extinguisher for the type of fire, or not be able to read the instructions for use.
Your service engineer will ensure that all the labelling on your fire equipment is clear and legible.
Fire extinguisher servicing and maintenance is required by the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
Talk to us at Swift Fire & Safety and we will help to inform your requirements and provide your servicing and maintenance.