Does A Fire Extinguisher Maintenance Technician Need To Be Qualified?
The requirements in the UK regarding fire extinguisher maintenance arise from legislation called the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) order 2005. This states that appropriate fire-fighting equipment must be provided, and that it should be installed, commissioned and maintained by a competent person. This usually consists of an annual basic service plus an extended service / overhaul every five years (with the exception of CO2 extinguishers, which have a 10 year cycle).
The basic annual service covers around 15 procedures and checks using a range of specialist tools hopefully in the hands of a trained professional!
However the British Standard that sets out the maintenance regime also states that regular checks must be carried out by the ‘responsible person’ at least once a month. This is a visual inspection to check for correct location, use, tampering, damage, and the status of the extinguisher, and it should be recorded in the fire log book.
Whilst checks and visual inspections can be easily carried out by the responsible person when trained and familiar with how to do it, annual services require more in-depth knowledge and expertise in order to do so safely and correctly.
Because of this, most businesses will rely on an external service provider to maintain their fire extinguishers. However, with the relatively loose definition of the term ‘competent person’ in the eyes of the law, theoretically anyone with a small amount of knowledge can legally call themselves a ‘fire extinguisher technician’.
Simply put, there’s no necessary qualification for a fire extinguisher technician to have passed before they can begin work.
However, is it worth the risk? Although there’s no legal qualification requirement for someone to change your vehicle’s brakes, it doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to let your Nan do it.
The effective use of a fire extinguisher can make the difference between a small fire being quickly extinguished and a fire that burns out of control, destroying a business and potentially lives. Conversely, a fire extinguisher that has been improperly serviced could fail to operate, incapacitating the first, fastest and most effective defence against a fire.
The short answer is no, it’s not worth the risk.
Thankfully there are a number of third-party certifications and trade associations for extinguisher service providers and their technicians that you can trust.
- BAFE – British Approvals for Fire Equipment – are an independent third party certification registration body that develop quality and competency schemes for the fire protection industry. Fire protection companies are independently certified against schemes for their competency to provide fire protection services by UKAS accredited certification bodies.
- ISO9001 -2008 Quality Assurance certification – Fire Safety companies who subscribe to the above schemes will have their systems and service technicians externally audited on an annual basis.
- FPA – Fire Protection Association – is the UK’s national fire safety organisation. It is a professional body that works to understand fire risks and the means by which their potential for loss is kept to a minimum.
- FIA – Fire Industry Association – the largest fire protection trade association in the UK with over 700 members, offers over 250 training courses, including a 4 day fire extinguisher maintenance course. “We are not interested in representing contractors who are not up to the job and who give the industry a bad name. Credibility, a reputation for high quality and second-to-none service are what FIA members are about.”
When hiring a company that has these qualifications, you can trust that they are held to these standards. At Red Box Fire Control, we and our technicians are BAFE BS5309 Part 3 Certified. For a business to become BAFE BS5309 Part 3 Certified, there is an in depth and rigorous process.
Firstly, we must are required to have an ISO9001 certificate from a UKAS certification body, a certificate for implementing and continuously working to within the guidelines of the Quality Management System of the certification body. Secondly, each of our technicians must have completed the ‘Theory and practice of servicing portable fire extinguishers in accordance with the requirements of BS 5306 parts 3 and 8’, including refresher exams every 3 years.
For technicians to become BAFE BS5309 Part 3 Certified, not only must they reach the high standards of competency outlined by BAFE, they must also be employed by a company that demonstrate their competence in the relevant sectors of the fire protection industry through ongoing auditing by a Third Party Certification Body.
These stipulations are in place to ensure the competence of service technicians working in the field, providing the customer with a reliable and safe service. This recognised industry benchmark ensures our consistent, high quality level of service and customer satisfaction.