Mythbusters - Fire Extinguishers
Fire extinguishers have been used extensively as a fire protection method in buildings and vehicles, since the first one was patented in 1723. UK Fire safety legislation dictates that businesses must provide “appropriate fire-fighting equipment”.
This, for most businesses, usually falls into the category of portable fire extinguishers. We often find that there’s a lot of confusion out there surrounding fire extinguishers, so we we’ve put together a few common myths that need squashing.
Fire Extinguishers must be replaced after a certain period of time.
There is no stipulation in the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 that says a Fire Extinguisher must be replaced after a certain period of time. Fire extinguishers are required to undergo regular basic servicing every year (at their specified interval) and extended servicing every 5 years. These services include pressure testing, and refilling (if necessary). However, usually after 20 years of life it’s more economical to replace than to repair.
If an extinguisher misses its service interval, you must replace it.
Whilst you are going against the Regulator Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and breaking the law by not having your fire extinguishers maintained regularly, this does not render the extinguisher useless.
Provided that you can get the extinguisher serviced (be it cost effective or not), the extinguisher can continue to be used.
Old colour coded fire extinguishers must be replaced
With the introduction of British Standard EN3, the colour coding of fire extinguishers changed. Pre-BS EN 3 the entire body of the first extinguisher must represent its colour code. However, BS EN 3 requires the main body to be signal red, with the colour code clearly labelled.
Whilst legally you are not required to replace them, the ‘new’ standard came into force 17 years ago, meaning these old fire extinguishers could be over 20 years old. It’s unlikely that they will remain cost effective to service and should be replaced.
A Fire Extinguisher muST be replaced, even if used only briefly
Fire extinguishers that have been used, even if only briefly, should be immediately serviced or replaced. Even if only used for a short time, the fire extinguisher could be damaged, blocked or empty in the event that it needs to be used again.
After partial use, you cannot guarantee there is enough pressure or extinguishing medium inside when you next need it. The extinguisher should be serviced and refilled.