Fire Extinguisher Service
Fire extinguishers require stringent maintenance to ensure they will work when needed, or are more importantly, safe. Fire extinguishers are pressurised vessels that can explode when corroded or damaged, and have been know to cause serious injury and even death.
There are 2 types of maintenance procedures:
- Basic inspection by the user;
- Maintenance by competent person
British Standard 5306-3:2000 covers the maintenance of portable fire extinguishers, and recommends that “regular visual inspections of all portable fire extinguishers be carried out by the user or user’s representative. The frequency of inspections by the user should be not less than monthly and, when circumstances require, inspections should be carried out more frequently”.
Inspections should include checks that each extinguisher:
- Is located in the designated place
- Is unobstructed, visible and its operating instructions face outwards
- Has operating instructions which are clean and legible
- Is not obviously damaged
- Has a reading in the operable range or position of any pressure gauge or indicator fitted
- Has seals and tamper indicators which are not broken or missing.
Maintenance should be carried out by a competent person (usually a specialist contractor) 12 months after installation of a new extinguisher, and at 12 monthly intervals thereafter.
The following chart shows the basic types & frequency of maintenance:
|Basic service||Extinguisher type||Extended service||Overhaul & recharge|
|Annually||Water & foam||5 yearly|
|Annually||CO2||5 yearly||10 year|
Identify the type of materials in the area
- Class A: SOLIDS such as paper, wood, plastic etc…
- Class B: FLAMMABLE LIQUIDS such as paraffin, petrol, oil etc…
- Class C: FLAMMABLE GASES such as propane, butane, methane etc…
- Class D: METALS such as aluminium, magnesium, titanium etc…
- Class E: Fires involving ELECTRICAL APPARATUS
- Class F: Cooking OIL & FAT etc…
Types of fire extinguisher
Water Fire Extinguishers
The cheapest and most widely used fire extinguishers.
Used for Class A fires.
Not suitable for Class B (Liquid) fires, or where electricity is involved.
Foam Fire Extinguishers
More expensive than water, but more versatile.
Used for Classes A & B fires.
Foam spray extinguishers are not recommended for fires involving electricity, but are safer than water if inadvertently sprayed onto live electrical apparatus.
Dry Powder Fire Extinguishers
Often termed the ‘multi-purpose’ extinguisher, as it can be used on classes A, B & C fires.
Best for running liquid fires (Class B).
Will efficiently extinguish Class C gas fires, BUT BEWARE, IT CAN BE DANGEROUS TO EXTINGUISH A GAS FIRE WITHOUT FIRST ISOLATING THE GAS SUPPLY. Special powders are available for class D metal fires.
Warning: when used indoors, powder can obscure vision or damage goods and machinery. It is also very messy.
CO2 Fire Extinguishers
Carbon Dioxide is ideal for fires involving electrical apparatus, and will also extinguish class B liquid fires, but has NO POST FIRE SECURITY and the fire could re-ignite.
Specialist extinguisher for class F fires.
For Metal Fires
A specialist fire extinguisher for use on Class D fires – metal fires such as sodium, lithium, manganese and aluminium when in the form of swarf or turnings.
Prior to 1st Jan 1997, the code of practice for fire extinguishers in the UK was BS 5423, which advised the colour coding of fire extinguishers as follows:
Water – Red
Foam – Cream
Dry Powder – Blue
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) – Black