Fire Extinguisher Myths Answered

We asked Anthony Buck BSc (hon) CMIOSH MIFPO, who is a Qualified Extinguisher Service Technician and one of the most knowledgeable fire extinguisher experts we know to write us a post about a few fire extinguisher myths.

This ‘FAQ’ document sets out to dispel incorrect information often given to uses about fire extinguishers by suppliers/maintainers/health & safety staff

1. Fire extinguishers must be replaced after 10 years

Answer – No

There is no statutory maximum service life for a fire extinguisher. Some bodies recommend a 20 year limit, but in practice an extinguisher can continue in service indefinitely whilst:

  • Parts remain available
  • The extinguisher has no damage, defect or corrosion rendering it unsafe for use
  • It is not an Obsolescent type (see below)
  • It is serviced, including extended services and for CO2 statutory overhaul, as required

2. If a fire extinguisher hasn’t been serviced for a few years it must be replaced

Answer – No

It just means that a service is all the more urgent. As long parts are available and it passes it’s basic, extended service or overhaul (as required) and is not Obsolescent it can continue to be used

3. Old colour coded extinguishers are obsolete and must be replaced.

Answer – No

Many pre BS EN3 extinguishers still have suitable spares & parts available and can continue in service as long as in serviceable condition.

4. Fire extinguishers must be replaced at their 5 yearly Extended Service interval as it’s not cost effective to carry this out

Answer – No

What they mean is it’s too time consuming for them to carry out this test & they’d rather just replace it. The actual cost of carrying out an extended service is less than replacement, particularly for water and foam types – the actual ‘cost’ price in parts & refills to Extended Service a water extinguisher is less than £5.

5. Stainless steel/polished finish extinguishers are illegal

Answer – No

Although they cannot be kite marked to BS EN3 due to their colour, they remain perfectly legal as long as new models are CE marked; and are preferred where aesthetics are important. A competent fire risk assessment can justify their use, normally where signage & staff awareness is in place.

6. CO2 extinguishers must have a 5 year extended service

Answer – No

For a short time around 2000 the servicing standard BS 5306-3 did require this, but after feedback from manufacturers this was removed in the 2003 revision as not required or of value

7. CO2 extinguishers must be replaced after 10 years

Answer – No

It may be more profitable and less time consuming for the engineer to do this, but what is required at 10 years is an Overhaul, which includes a hydraulic pressure test of the cylinder (to meet requirements of Pressure systems legislation) and new valve. An overhaul is better for the environment, recycling an existing cylinder and cheaper than a new extinguisher, which only has 10 years before overhaul anyway – there is no longer a lifespan advantage.

8. Every ‘kitchen’ requires a fire blanket and powder extinguisher

Answer – No

Extinguisher provision is risk based and most ‘kitchens’ in premises are just tea points with kettle, microwave, dishwasher, etc. A fire blanket is not needed if there is no small Class F risk, i.e. no cooker with hobs that a chip pan or frying pan could be used on. A powder extinguisher is not very effective on enclosed electrical equipment such as microwaves and causes severe secondary damage and CO2 is more appropriate. Full working kitchens will require Wet Chemical extinguishers if fryers are in use.

9. Fire extinguisher service personnel are experts

Answer – No

The fire trade is sales driven and there are no requirements to hold any qualification in extinguisher maintenance or, as important, to attend refreshers. For every competent engineer there are several who are unqualified or cut corners, or will use any excuse to sell new equipment. Care must be taken when choosing a provider and should you require to know your extinguisher requirements a competent fire risk assessor is a more unbiased source of advice.

10. Is my extinguisher engineer servicing my equipment properly?

Answer – Maybe yes, maybe no

Corners are sometimes cut to save time/money or through ignorance. Some staff just ‘shine & sign’, a term for wiping the extinguisher down so it looks like it’s been attended to and filling in the label. Things to look for:

If any of these activities were not done and the original extinguisher remains, then they are not correctly serviced. Likewise not performing an extended service at the correct interval is also negligent.

Label terminology: A correctly completed service label should include:

  • Date (year and month)
  • Type of service- Initial, Basic, Extended, Recharge or Overhaul. NOT obsolete terms such as Serviced (S), Inspected (I), Discharge Test (DT) which suggest a lack of refresher training.
  • Weight in kg
  • Next extended service or Overhaul date
  • iv. Other checks. Many other factors can be checked by suitably trained auditors such as the author of this guide

11. What genuine reasons for condemning an extinguisher exist

Answer – Even correctly serviced equipment will deteriorate to an unsafe condition and reach end of life. The only reasons are:

  • i. corrosion, wear or damage to threads of any pressure retaining part
  • ii. corrosion of welds
  • iii. extensive general corrosion or severe pitting;
  • iv. significant dents or gouges in the body
  • v. fire damage to the body or body fittings
  • vi. any split in a plastics lining, or any significant bubbling or lifting from the metal of a plastics lining
  • vii. corrosion of the metal body under a plastics lining
  • viii. corrosion of the metal body under a zinc or tin/lead lining
  • ix. overpainting or application of any other coating, film or colouring to any plastics component that could be subject to pressure
  • x. UV degradation of plastics components
  • xi. illegible marking or operating instructions
  • xii. instructions not in English

12. What genuine reasons for replacing an extinguisher due to Obsolescence exist?

Answer – Eventually an extinguisher will become obsolete for a variety of reasons, usually relating to availability of parts, ineffectiveness or safety concerns. Types included are;

  • i. chemical foam extinguishers
  • ii. soda acid extinguishers
  • iii. extinguishers with a riveted body shell
  • iv. extinguishers with a plastics body shell
  • v. extinguishers that require inversion to operate
  • vi. non-refillable extinguishers that have reached their expiry date
  • vii. extinguishers for which parts are no longer available and servicing cannot be completed
  • viii. halon extinguishers (prohibited by statute)
  • ix. extinguishers manufactured after 2002 which do not carry a CE mark This excludes refurbished extinguishers (see Note).NOTE Refurbished extinguishers cannot carry the CE mark and cannot be condemned for not carrying it.
  • i. All new extinguishers require Commissioning by a competent person. This has been introduced due to the growth in internet sales. Often extinguishers are supplied to users in their original factory cartons and are not fully assembled. This has led to extinguishers in use that were defective or dangerous due to incorrect or non assembly by unqualified users and difficulties I ongoing maintenance due to vital information about the extinguisher’s age, mass, etc not being recorded
  • ii. A tolerance of +/- 1 month is given for annual Basic Servicing, so that a few weeks delay in a service visit is no longer a non conformity
  • iii. Due to it being impossible to determine if a plastic headcap has suffered internal cracking from impact or degradation from UV light or chemicals unless it fails during discharge (a safety risk), extinguishers with such headcaps must have them replaced at ever 5 year Extended Service. Some service companies for their convenience will suggest total replacement, but in reality for the many models where the parts are still available it is cheaper for the user to simply replace the headcap
  • iv. Additional safety reasons to condemn an extinguisher – see ix to xii in Paragraph 12 above
  • v. Additional extinguishers that cannot be serviced due to Obsolescence/Nonconformity – see ix in Paragraph 13 above
  • vi. A more detailed description of the requirements to become a Competent Person

Comments

  1. peter mason says:

    Hi
    In our Church we have up to date tested extinguishers in the designated areas.

    We also have some spare extinguisers (not tested up to date) Can we have these in lockd plant rooms as spare?

    Thanks peter

    • Hi Peter

      Not really. By that, I mean that, if they are spares, spares for what? If they would ever be needed, they need to be serviced. Also, it depends how long since they have been serviced or how old. Extinguishers need to be ‘discharge tested’ every 5 years and that can cost more than buying a replacement from a reputable online supplier. Also, the longer they go unserviced, the more likely they will become unserviceable.

      It sounds to me that your service company is charging too much and probably charging for extras if you don’t want to pay. Have you seen fixed price servicing at ?
      Jon recently posted..Fire Extinguisher Myths AnsweredMy Profile

      • peter mason says:

        Thanks for your prompt reply. We have an extinguisher of the right type in the plant rooms – these are additional ones (we no longer have serviced – for some reason over the years we have ended up with a few spares that we dont have serviced any more
        Are they OK to have as ‘additional’ to the minimum requirements (in non public areas) In the event of a fire would use the tested ones first and if necessary then the untested ones

        peter

  2. The problem is that, in the event of a fire, people are likely to panic and whereas you know which is which, it’s likely that someone else will be the one grabbing it. If it is not serviced, it may be dangerous to use. Qualified technicians are trained to recognise failing plastic heads, detached linings, dents, rust spots on welds and other things that may cause injury to the user.

    Extinguishers are for ‘first aid’ fire fighting and, in a public place of worship, the priority is to get people out. If the first extinguishers are not enough, you should not be in the building.

    Personally, I’d take them to the local council refuse centre as you have the requirements. Better safe that sorry.

    What types are they?

  3. Ive heard that it’s legal to transport any type of extinguisher in a vehicle without a closed cab. Is this true?

  4. Hi, is there a simple authoritative guide to fire extinguisher requirements/placement for small businesses?
    I have had a number of sales people review our premises and honestly it is a complete joke the differences between each of the recommendations, in no small part as you mention above the industry is entirely sales driven, and certainly reflects badly on the industry.

    • Hi Guy

      Yes, the sales side is very embarrassing but modern companies such as Fire Protection Online (click to see their prices) sell the same extinguishers at a third or a quarter of the price and pay no commission to any staff. There is no simple guide as there are many risks and regulations and many various combinations. I strongly recommend a professional otherwise you need to follow a couple of British Standards and interpret them correctly. Fire Protection Online give a fire safety survey with a 100% refund against any subsequent purchase for around £40 (and have never had anyone no take up the quote as you will be shocked at the low price). Or call them on 0800 321 3145.

      I personally guarantee this service will be like chalk and cheese compared to what you’ve had from the sales people that visited. I hope this helped.

      Jon
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  5. thankyou for the prompt response.

    Will certainly take a look at this company. Can you confirm if you have an interest in this company, or if your recommendation is independent please.

    Will be good to make some progress on this issue after what clearly has been a load of rubbish offered to date.

  6. Hi

    Is it really necessary to have fire extinguisher signage placed on the wall above a fire extinguisher, as recently recommended during our fire risk assessment? Surely the extinguisher itself is a big enough sign and the details of the types of fire that can be tacked and instructions for use are printed on the front of the extinguisher.

    I really don’t want to have to purchase and maintain signage for the sake of it.

    Thanks

    • Hello

      I’m sorry to say that, yes, it’s necessary. There’s not really any ‘maintenance’ involved with a sign and, to be honest, if it has been stipulated in your Fire Risk Assessment, why would you question it? If you are not confident in your assessor’s qualifications (hopefully you did not simply use your fire extinguisher service company for this), that’s another matter.

      I know that expense will not be a problem with your property being one of the most prestigious in London so, are you worried about looks? There are some ‘designer’ versions available.

      Finally, it is not worth upsetting a Fire Officer or Building Inspector over something so simple as that may suggest lack of compliance and encourage further investigation into every fire safety aspect.

      Let me know if you’d like more information.

      Jon
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      • Thanks Jon

        Sadly even prestigious properties count every penny 🙁

        I agree its not worth upsetting anyone, its more the fact I cant understand the logic of having a sign that’s a tenth of the size of the object its indicating – seems a bit of a jobs worth. I can fully understand the need if the extinguisher was not in full sight, for example in a cupboard or on the back of a column. Oh well….

        Many thanks for the response.
        Regards Peter

        • It really does depend on the circumstances, but if it is simply a small red sigh placed directly above the extinguisher, then it is a waste of time and effort. The purpose of the sign should be to make the location of the extinguisher readily identifiable, not to decorate the wall for decorations sake.
          You are not bound to complete all the recommendations in your Fire Risk Assessment, especially if it has been done by somebody else, but you are legally obliged to have a satisfactory answer for all the points raised.

          So for example, if the extinguishers are in a large foyer and could be obscured from view by the number of people using the area, then signs above head height that show where they are are a good idea. Signs 20cms away from the extinguisher are as worthwhile as a ‘Chocolate fireguard’

          • These are all very good points, Bernard. People need to understand their fire risk assessments and be able to apply common sense where possible. “Rules” can be bent where an adequate reason and explanation is provided.

            Jon
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          • I certainly agree with your approach Bernard. Thanks for your comments.

            Peter

  7. hi i have a couple of 80s foam extinguishers and service engineer says it is not neceserry to change sollution even though one was let off last week and it was thick and smelled rotten

    • Hi Joseph

      There’s a few points to cover here. First of all, it is extremely unlikely that a foam extinguisher from the 80s would be serviceable as the interior would be rotten and parts would not be available (they should have been replaced around 10-20 years ago). Secondly, it probably contains ‘protein foam’ that smells because it is made from animal materials and the ‘service engineer’ has probably never seen one before as they stopped producing that a long time ago. Then, he is most likely saying that the solution does not need changing (it does) because he cannot get the refill foam and he has no idea how to clean it out.

      But, most important is the age factor. If you have a service engineer that would consider passing an 80s foam extinguisher, you need a new service engineer as he has no idea what he is doing and is putting your equipment and you in danger.

      I’d just replace it with a modern version like these http://www.fireprotectiononline.co.uk/foam-fire-extinguishers/

      Jon
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  8. Our extinguishers (2 x water, 1 x CO2) recently passed 10 years old. Following a very dodgy sales spiel from the service engineer (who wanted £94/extinguisher for 2nd hand) I purchased new ones online (for £27 each).
    I now have 3 extinguishers out of date but in good nick and could easily be re charged. Is there any value to these (i.e. can I sell them)?

    • Hi David

      To be honest, a 10-year old water extinguisher is lucky to have survived that long. And, for someone to have them tested and refilled would cost more than buying new online. The same with the CO2 where a new one would cost less than the test. Plus, you’ll find it tough to get them shipped as they are ‘dangerous goods’. Personally, I’d use them for staff practice and then take them to your local council tip.

      Jon
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  9. With reference to item 4 in the initial paragraph, we have a high number of vehicles with 2kg powder/foam fire extinguishers installed in them. Usually that are disposed of after 5 years as our supplier has suggested it’s more cost effective that servicing them. Can you please explain what service arrangements need be carried out. The gauges are checked on a regular basis when the vehicles come in for service to make sure they are in the green band until they reach five years old.

    • Hi Steve

      Great question. Powder and foam extinguishers require a 5-year ‘extended’ service. This involves a discharge test (effectively, setting it off under monitored conditions to check that it works properly, and then refilling it again). Powder refills need to be done indoors so most exchange them for ready-done ones from specialist refilling suppliers. Compared to the lower cost of buying extinguishers online (see FireProtectionOnline.co.uk’s 2kg powder extinguisher price), these exchanges or refills tend to cost more than a new one.

      It’s the same with foam as foam cannot (for environmental reasons) be discharged into waterways. It’s cheaper to replace than taking them off-site and bringing them back refilled.

      However, it’s still a requirement to have them serviced annually. This needs to be done by a ‘competent’ technician for legal and insurance reasons, but, as the 2kg or 2ltr models are so simple, it does not involve much. The technician should have a special tool for testing that the gauge is working and he should unsettle the powder and then weigh them. He should also check that the pin is still removable and that there are no dents.

      Back in my day, we’d recommend the customer have a batch of ‘spares’ that can be serviced together at a depot and then swap out ones in vehicles that are out and about.

      I hope that helps.

      Jon
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  10. At our church inspection we are recommended to replace 2 Water Extinguishers because they have Plastic heads (plastic in good condition), A 2 kg CO2 unit due a 10year test (therefor replace) and a Fire Blanket (Unused, good condition)because it is 7 years old. It seems that on account of this recommendation these extinguishers were not formally serviced and declared unfit for use so a return visit would be required if we manage to justify not to replace! i.e. stitched up.

    I guess the CO2 replacement is probably the easy way out; The water ones are to BS unless the BS has changed recently. Blanket replacement seems unnecessary. Any comments
    Jack

    • Hi Jack

      Unfortunately, much of what you have been told is correct. However, you could have been forewarned years in advance so you could budget or spread the costs. And, it would have been helpful to give better explanations.

      Plastic headcaps were found to deteriorate due to UV exposure over time so they must be replaced after a period of time. But, depending on the make, the headcaps usually cost over £20 for the service company to buy and that’s more than they will be paying for a new water extinguisher. So, add the cost of the test and refill and then the fact that a water extinguisher is very lucky to have lasted so long without the internal plastic lining splitting, a new one is the better option.

      But, have you seen the costs of online water extinguishers (from Chubb Fire’s ‘trade company’) or CO2 range?

      If you are unsure, I can guarantee that any service company will service anyone else’s extinguishers (often they use the same supplier anyway).

      For the CO2, yes, it costs them more to get one tested at 10 years than to supply you a new one.

      For the fire blanket, just because it is ‘old-ish’ is no excuse for suggeting replacement. But, again, have you see the online prices?

      I hope this information helps or, at least, gives you some bargaining power.
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  11. What is the difference between US fire extinguisher and BS fire extinguisher..??

    • That’s not easy to answer. But, extinguishers have to comply to their country-specific standards. The UL standards in the USA are very different to BS EN3 in the UK. The USA often uses small powder extinguishers in shops and stores, but the UK says not to use powder in these situations due to visibility and breathing problems. And, the USA uses stainless steel rather than plastic-lined mild-steel for their ‘wet’ (water and foam) extinguishers.

      But, the concept of fire extinguishers and their use is appreciated and works well in both countries.
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  12. Hi Jon.

    I live in a house conversion and it has 3 flats. The fire extinguishers have not been serviced since july 2009.

    What are the general rules/ guidelines for servicing these in a residential property with shared access ( front door and stairwell)

    They are RED 4KG (ABC) POWDER 21A/113B/C

    Many thanks mate.

    • Good question, Sean. And not as easy to answer as it should be. So, as I don’t know the full situation, I’ll take a stab. First of all, extinguishers must be serviced every year. A 4kg powder is not recommended for indoor use and, as it’s over 5 years since the last service, it would need a full discharge test and refill. So, take it to the local Council tip and they should take it for free.

      Then, personally, I’d take advantage of your local Fire Service’s free home fire safety audit. You have nothing to fear as they won’t be prosecuting anyone. but, they will give good advice for free without trying to sell you anything.

      The shared flats should have fire doors as front doors and these should have fire and smoke seals around them. The flats should have smoke alarms inside that are interlinked to the others in the building. Or, there may be ones on each stair level, again linked. Each stair level should have emergency lighting that needs to be checked annually or every six months (you should see green LED lights in them to show they are probably working).

      You can place an extinguisher with a minimum fire rating of 13A on each stair level or fit one within each flat. A 3 litre or 6 litre foam will cover most fire risks.

      Then, if there is a gas supply or ‘real fire’ fireplace in the building, each flat should have a carbon monoxide alarm.

      New landlord Fire Regulations come into force on 1st October so I’d get that call into the Fire Service quickly as they may be getting a little busy.

      Look for Fire safety audit or home fire safety visit on their website.

      As for the law, the building owner and/or manager is legally liable to ensure that the fire regulations are met. If you use a managing agent, they are not doing their job.

      I hope this helps.

      Jon
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      • Thanks for the speedy reply Jon. You’re a superstar mate!

        I bought the flat a year ago and we have a management company supposedly looking after things. I had my suspicions things are wrong. I just needed an educated opinion on things , giving me some ammunition to fire at them.

        To them it’s just a job but to me it’s my home and if I’m paying for things , I want things done correctly.

        Do you have a donate button ? I’d love to buy you a few beers for the info supplied.

  13. Hi Jon,

    Great article.
    When you say in your article:
    ◾ The extinguisher has no damage, defect or corrosion rendering it unsafe for use
    What extent of damage would be classed as rendering the extinguisher unsafe? I have seen other sites which mention similar, but it is very ambiguous.

    I ask as we have recently replaced a 6ltre foam extinguisher (due to internal corrosion) but the replacement has a fairly shallow dent on the shoulder, about 3cm x 1cm in size.
    Is this something we should be worrying about?

    Thanks in advance for your help.

    Regards,

    Martin

    • Hi Martin

      Thanks for the kind words. The British Standard 5306 part 3 is the ‘code of practice’ for fire extinguisher maintenance and it does not give any definition as to the degree of a dent. For the standard, a dent is a dent as the cylinder is pressurised, even when it’s low pressure. However, the shoulder, base, welds and brackets are the weakest parts of a pressurised cylinder so your foam extinguisher (see http://www.fireprotectiononline.co.uk/foam-fire-extinguishers/) is not ‘fit for use’ and should be replaced. Sorry!

      Did it arrive like that from a supplier? If so, they should have replaced it.

      A service engineer would ‘condemn’ it as soon as he sees it.

      Jon
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  14. Sally Moody says:

    Hi

    We have a number of our fire extinguishers condemned due to the following on their report 2Kg CO2 Extinguisher failed lable over lable non compliant unit is this correct that you can cendem an extinguisher for having a lable over a label?

    Regards

    Sally

    • Hello Sally

      Without seeing any of the extinguishers, it’s not easy to comment. But, yes, technically, if the printed instructions are obscured, the unit is “non-compliant”. The instructions are there for a purpose. However, a) it’s very frustrating that someone covered them in the first place. And, b) it’s frustrating that there’s no offer to remedy it without subjecting you to an expensive replacement (such as removing the offending label).

      I recommend you take a look at the price here for a brand new one as you are not obliged to buy anything from your service company and he will willingly service any extinguishers you have.

      Jon
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  15. I thought that every kitchen required a fire blanket and powder extinguisher. However, you make a good point about all kitchens being different. Do fire extinguishers prevent fire damage?

    • Hi Westly

      Different countries have different rules. In the USA, powder is extremely common, even in food stores. Kitchens should have a fire blanket and, probably a wet chemical extinguisher.

      As for powder, in the UK our updated British Standard 5306-8:2012 Selection and positioning of portable fire extinguishers – Code of Practice states as follows.

      “5.4.3 Use of powder extinguishers The discharge of a powder extinguisher within buildings can cause a sudden reduction of visibility and can also impair breathing, which could temporarily jeopardize escape, rescue or other emergency action. For this reason, powder extinguishers should generally not be specified for use indoors, unless mitigated by a health and safety risk assessment.”

      Extinguishers prevent fire but a fire will always create damage of some kind.

      Jon
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  16. Steven Hickey says:

    Hi
    WE have just had our fire extinguishers and the engineer has put the following on the report
    2kg co2 due 10 year test require replacing
    6lt foam due 5year test require service exchange
    3lt foam due 5year test require service exchange
    6lt water due 5year test require service exchange

    Would it be statutory to exchange / replace these or would it be classed as a recommendation? If it was statutory rather than replacing could they be serviced and would this be more cost affective than replacing a extinguisher?

    • Hi Steven

      It depends who is servicing them. Many “service engineers” don’t actually have the tools or the correct refilling equipment to do their jobs properly – far too many of them, seriously! But, first of all, yes, these are no recommendations. These have to be done. If you have an incident, your insurers may not pay out and you may face some heavy fines for not being compliant.

      To go through the full testing of a CO2 is expensive and it has to be sent away so they exchange for a ready-tested one. With internet prices it now costs less to just replace it with a new CO2.

      The foams just require a discharge test and refill but that foam is not kind to the environment so a modern company will discharge into a tank and have it correctly disposed of – not many do this! Again, at internet prices, it is easier to replace with new foams. Note – it’s best to be consistent across the site so you may as well use the same type and size.

      Another point is that extinguishers are good for 5 years. Not many last 10 years and you may pay for the test then have to replace a year or two later anyway. I’d replace with new.

      Finally, the water. This contains plain water and the engineer should be able to test and refill it for a few quid. I’m not sure why he needs to replace or exchange unless my first sentence applies.

      If you’d like to email me direct and tell me the name of the company and where you are based, I may be able to tell you if you are using a quality company 🙂

      Jon
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  17. Peter Caskey says:

    Hi,
    I work in a theatre, we have been told that our extinguishers with plastic collars are condemned, do they need replacing or can just the collars be replaced? We have quite a few extinguishers and have recently changed our maintainance company.

    Peter

    • Hi Peter

      It’s not easy to comment as there are no extinguishers with ‘plastic collars’. I am guessing that it may be a plastic head cap of some sort and it depends on the age. Plastic deteriorates with UV light and becomes brittle. An extinguisher works under pressure when activated and people have, sadly, been killed by plastic head caps shearing the threads off and hitting them in the head or under the chin (very, very rare, btw).

      The trade recommendation is as follows:

      • For stored pressure extinguishers (excluding CO2 extinguishers), the discharge test should be carried out, after which the head cap should be removed and replaced with a new head cap

      • With gas cartridge extinguishers, the head cap should be removed before discharge testing and destroyed. A new head cap will then need to be fitted and the discharge test then carried out. In addition, the requirements of the standard this will “confirm that the extinguisher operates and the head cap is compatible and has been fitted correctly

      These head caps will cost over £20 for the trade to buy in and are then put on an already old extinguisher with a limited life.

      It sounds like your maintenance company is being prudent and following best practice. Modern extinguishers tend to use brass valves as head caps.

      However, it is still going to cost much less to buy the extinguishers online so make sure you compare the price before over-paying.

      I hope that helps.

      Jon
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  18. Hi Jon

    My landlord had a carbon dioxide fire extinguisher that was last services in 1995 how dangerous is this
    Kind regards
    Peter

    • Hi Peter

      It may be very dangerous. A CO2 extinguisher must be stripped down and hydraulically pressure tested after 10 years (from new) and the pressure parts replaced. It is charged at approx 55 bar or 750 PSI. In other words, if it failed and the valve blew out, it would travel like a rocket.

      Of course, it may also be empty.

      Your landlord is legally responsible to comply with the Fire Safety Order. It seems that he is risking fines and your lives. If he does not spend money on something so simple, what else has been missed?

      Have you asked to see his Fire Risk Assessment to see how he is protecting your life in the event of a fire?

      My advice is to call your local Fire Service and report your concerns. They should visit and assess the premises and speak with him. I’m sure he will then take the action to comply with the law or else he will face fines.

      Good luck

      Jon
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  19. Hi, please can you tell me if the “certification ” provided by companies when they have serviced the extinguishers carries any weight with buildings insurers in the event of a fire?

    • In theory, yes. They have to be serviced under the Fire Safety Order. Insurers tend to require standard practice.

      It may be worth asking your insurers if they have any specific requirements for the company’s qualifications.

      Jon
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  20. Hi Jon, thanks for taking your time to share your wealth of knowledge here! I am looking to replace ageing extinguishers in a domestic property (4 bed detached) currently have 2 x 2 l foam and 1 2kg co2, all Chubb 2003 models. Looking to buy new TG Fire Power extinguishers off Internet, after talking to a local company to see their prices, they were adamant in a domestic property I should be looking at getting 2 x 2 kg powder! My trail of thought was 1 x 3l foam and 1 new co2, I perceive the biggest risk in the house to be electrical, which Co2 would deal with, and the foam for everything else (we don’t deep fry in kitchen!) I have done a fair bit of extinguisher training over the years in work and know first hand how messy powder is!!! What is your expert thoughts on extinguisher selection for use in domestic homes?

    • Hi Gareth

      I agree with your thinking and that’s exactly what we generally recommend for a solid fire safety setup.

      People have often used the 2kg powder as it’s cheap and covers all fires. But, with internet prices, you can find those TG Firepower 3ltr foams and 2kg CO2s at incredibly low prices if you follow those links. The 2ltr of a vehicle size and not enough fro a property.

      Also, here is a passage from the updated British Standard 5306-8:2012 Selection and positioning of portable fire extinguishers – Code of Practice states as follows.

      “5.4.3 Use of powder extinguishers The discharge of a powder extinguisher within buildings can cause a sudden reduction of visibility and can also impair breathing, which could temporarily jeopardize escape, rescue or other emergency action. For this reason, powder extinguishers should generally not be specified for use indoors, unless mitigated by a health and safety risk assessment.”

      I hope that helps.

      Jon
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  21. Hi Jon,
    I have 2 x 1 kg all purpose extinguishers in my ( small 28 x 10 feet) static caravan that need replacing.Should I replace with a 2 kg or 2 x 1 kg?
    Am I better with a longer usage time ( ie 2 x 9 sec with 2 x 1 kg, as opposed to 1 x 9 secs with a 2 kg) or is the higher AB rating on the 2 kg more important?
    Do the domestic /budget items last 5 years, and do they carry a replace by date?
    Thanks
    Barbarab

    • Hi Barbara

      It’s a great question. In reality, you want a continual flow from an extinguisher. You do not want one to run out and for a fire to re-start while you are getting the next one. As the 2kg tends to only cost £1 extra (click that link to see prices), the 2kg would be better. It’s not the discharge time, it’s the fire rating. As panicking beginners, most of us would have wasted a couple of seconds of extinguishant before hitting the fire so the little ones may not do much.

      Without wanting to frighten you, a caravan fire will grow very fast so your priority is to get everyone out safely. A quality smoke alarm and a 2kg powder extinguisher will be good. All extinguishers from reputable UK suppliers (not including Ebay and Amazon marketplace) will be good for 5 years and it costs less to replace than to have them tested and refilled these days.

      I hope that helps.

      Jon
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  22. Hi John,

    could please tell me how I can tell the difference between a factory sealed dry powder and stored pressure dry powder.

    Thanks

    • Hi Craig

      Great question. A ‘factory sealed’ powder extinguisher is a rare beast and tended to refer to the ones from Nu-swift a few years ago. Their 3kg version cost around £300 twenty years ago – seriously! I’m not sure if anyone else made one other than Nu-swift (that name is now one of the brand-names of London Securities).

      In effect, you could remove the ‘head’ and hose without discharging the powder. Therefore, it was easy to replace as you simply unscrewed the head and screwed it onto a new unit. It was still stored pressure but it could last for 10 years before requiring a discharge test.

      A stored pressure powder is charged with oxygen-free nitrogen or dry air through the headcap valve. It will have a visible pressure gauge. If you tried to removed the head from this, it would not look pretty as the headcap is the valve and holds the pressure in. These are what you see everywhere these days.

      I hope that helps.

      Jon
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  23. Hi Jon,

    If you have a BAFE qualified Technician and he is a qualified trainer and also holds an NEBOSH fire cert, can he legally train in-house to service (not commission) CO2 fire extinguishers?

    • Hi Rik

      Commissioning is just an ‘initial service’, btw. It’s the same.

      First of all, there is no ‘legal’ stipulation. It’s all done by risk assessment these days so you cannot state an exact legal requirement in this arena until it’s tested retrospectively in a court of law after an incident.

      Your BAFE registered technician is no longer one once he left the company he was registered under. He can indeed train anyone to service extinguishers – it’s not rocket science – but they would then need to take an approved exam to become qualified. They will then need to take 3-year refreshers to keep ‘qualified’. These exams tend to be run by the four trade associations.

      If extinguishers are not serviced by ‘qualified’ technician, your insurance is likely to be null and void and you risk prosecution under the Fire Safety Order.

      It’s probably cheaper just to get a local service company in and to not let them do any tests or replacements without prior approval.

      I hope that helps.

      Jon
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      • Thanks, John,

        I find it very misleading with the legal wording for who is deemed competent as the FSO states…

        The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RRO) Annual Service and Maintenance should be conducted by a competent person.

        The “competent person” is someone qualified by training and experience to undertake service and maintenance of fire extinguishers. If they have been trained by a qualified person, then are they not complying with this definition? CO2 extinguisher are self-contained factory sealed and need to be sent back to the factory if there are any issues such as a 5% loss in weight and they should be checked in the same way monthly.

        For instance, after an initial RA and CBA the financial costs for servicing several thousand extinguishers in remote areas all over the UK the cost would be outweighed for the cost-benefit assessment as the cost per year for an inspection would out way the cost for new extinguishers and more, due to travel and fuel costs to get to the remote sites and there are only 4 or 5 extinguishers, kept in approved boxes or in dry conditions. Moreover, we would require an employee to escort them on side losing a day for the employee (additional costs) while they watch the external person inspect the extinguisher!

        Surely that is an amicable argument and would be an exclusion for all extinguisher to be serviced by someone undertaking a 5-day course for a 3-minute job. Thus warranting internal training with yearly refreshers?

        What are you thoughts please?

        • Hi

          I understand. All of the wording is misleading and, as I said, a court of law after an incident is where you find out if you interpreted it correcty.

          There are many companies servicing for wind farms, energy farms and mobile phone masts in remote areas. I guess they ensure that maintenance is done at the same time as other tasks.

          You can always bring in a trainer and have them do the exam at your premises. They could also do the refreshers the same way. Then your staff could do it and buy replacements online.

          They wouldn’t even need tools as online extinguishers cost so little, it’s easier and cheaper to replace than do periodic testing and refilling.

          If you have a few thousand extinguishers, I’m sure the company is of a size that can pay the small cost to get someone in. It will be a lot less than you think.

          I recommend you speak to Alan Palmer at http://www.firecontingency.co.uk/training/index.php (tell him I said “hi”).

          Jon

      • Hi John,

        I have sent you a request on Linkedin if you would be so kind to accept? so that we can communicate on there, please.

        I would like your opinion on this topic and I have done extensive research, but as you are an expert in this field I feel you could really help.

  24. Dave Penman says:

    Jon,

    What’s your thoughts on the P50 extinguishers. I am thinking of switching all of our site extinguishers, except the HV switch rooms to these to lower the maintenance costs.

    • Hi Dave

      The P50 is a good fire extinguisher manufactured by a good company (Britannia Fire) and a clever idea to find a way to sell in a crowded marketplace.

      However, most only look at it as their servicing costs are way too high; and that’s the wrong reason. Even the manufacturer has changed the wording from “maintenance-free” to “low maintenance” to “simple maintenance”. In other words, it still needs to be serviced.

      And, due to the UK’s risk assessment system, the only way you will find out if in-house maintenance by unqualified personnel is acceptable against the recognised British Standard 5306 part 3 will come in a court of law after an incident. Also, can you get your insurer (not the agent, the actual insurance company) to write (actually write it on paper and sign it) that they will accept this in the case of fire and not use it as an excuse for not paying out?

      The consequences could be dire in both cases, financially and legally.

      They cannot manufacture a CO2 version so you still need someone to service the CO2 extinguishers.

      My advice would be to find a more honest extinguisher maintenance company that sells at internet prices, does not charge for service parts, and will ask permission before doing any remedial work. And, one that does not pay commission to the technician or call them a “sales engineer”.

      You are looking at a P50 price of £150 vs £25 for a standard, approved, 5-year guarantee version. Replace the standard one after 5 years when the test is due at another £25. Add lower cost maintenance and you have no need to change. (Don’t believe the sales hype!)

      That’s my thoughts. I hope it helps.

      Jon
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  25. Hi Jon
    Do fire extinguishers require commissioning prior to first use when placed in workplaces/ work vehicles? I was led to believe the answer is yes. There appears to be a lot of businesses that think this service is not required when purchased from new. I audit companies and this includes their emergency preparedness and have been giving non conformances if there is no evidence of 12 monthly services. The response I generally get from business owners is that it is new I can show you the sales invoice. Please could you confirm whether I am correct or not as I am starting to doubt myself.

    Warmest regards

    Diane

    • Hi Diane

      The answer is yes and it’s a requirement in British Standard 5306. However, these standards are only recommendations and the laws are not specific so it starts to become a grey area.

      In theory, anyone carrying out a genuine fire risk assessment will find the need to be covered by fire extinguishers. The number and locations are specified in BS 5306 part 8 and that’s the only real reference for this purpose. You’d then decide that they need to be fit for purpose and BS 5306 part 3 covers that.

      So, in a retrospective method, it’s kind of the regulations.

      But, then the cynic would argue that “commissioning” had never been in 5306 until the extinguisher old guard needed to try and fight off internet and catalogue suppliers who were undercutting them and taking away customers. Commissioning was their way to fight back (it was actually stated in the renewal documents).

      Many customers cannot see the value. That’s because they bought online at a fraction of the cost and are loathe to pay a service company to come and put a sticker on and charge them more than they paid for the item.

      On-site commissioning is a strong recommendation but most assume the product is covered by a guarantee and ready for use.

      Jon
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  26. Hi there

    Who is legally responsible if a fire extinguisher is supposedly serviced and something goes wrong. Is it the company or the engineer

    • I’m sorry to say that, as I am not a lawyer, I cannot give an accurate answer. And you don;t state whether you mean the extinguisher company or the company at whose premises the engineer services.

      However, unless a pattern of appalling servicing can be found from that engineer, it would probably be stated that the extinguisher was found to be in good serviceable, working order at the time of the service.

      There was a case on the Isle of Man where an engineer was prosecuted for bad workmanship.

      In my experience, due to the servicing trade being sales and commission based, the only people to find bad work will be a rival company who will then fix it and charge, therefore destroying all the evidence.

      Jon
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  27. Jon,

    Can you tell me what ‘DTR’ stands for? I have seen it on a label on a fire extinguisher but have been told it is either ‘due to refill’ or ‘due to replace’. I have, however, also seen DTR referred to as part of a discharge test. I’m very confused because I can’t find the answers anywhere.

    Thank you in advance.

    • Hi Michael

      DTR stands for “Discharge Test and Refill”. It’s old extinguisher engineer shorthand. These days the correct terminology is “Extended Service” and, in general, this is due at 5 years (10 years for CO2).

      It’s worth noting that, at internet prices (these are the exact same products being sold for 4 and 5 times the price by non-internet companies), you are better off replacing with new as the tested unit is 5 years old and out of guarantee. It could be condemned a year or so after that (especially if you use a company that pays commission to the engineers – many do).

      Let me know if there’s anything else I can shed light on 🙂

      Jon
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  28. Hi Jon
    Our Water Additive extinguishers are due for their 5 year extended service. Our service company have advised that only the manufacturers approved refill can be used when recharging/extended servicing and the additive is not available to them and recommends replacing with water only extinguishers. What I’m trying to establish is: are they saying that the additive isn’t available anymore or are we being penalised and incurring the cost of new equipment because it just isn’t available to them as a service provider?

    • Hi Rachael

      It sounds like you are being punished because he simply does not have the other company’s additive in his van. Most engineers don’t have a wide range of spares.

      Instead of paying him his price and getting him his commission and sales target, buy a replacement online at online prices (the online products are the same that he will be selling).

      Either water additive or water spray will be OK. Those in the links are from Chubb Fire’s sister company and contain the same stuff 🙂

      He will have no problem servicing it or commissioning it and you will save a load of money.

      The 5-year test and subsequent refill would cost more than the price of a new online replacement anyway.

      Also, there are going to be 10 more local companies willing to do a more honest job. If you want recommendations, email where you are and I’ll tell you who’s worth asking.

      Jon
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  29. Hi Jon

    I’m a little confused about the need for a fire risk assessment in our circumstances. We rent a small office space in a multi-occupied building, there are 20 small business suites.

    The landlord provides all the fire equipment, including extinguishers and looks after the maintenance, drills etc. So they perform the fire risk assessments. Are we obliged to carry out a fire risk assessment in our small office space in addition to the landlord’s fire risk assessment?

    • Hi Jon

      While I do not claim to be a legal expert on this very confusing law (far too many are confused by it), if you employ 5 or more people, yes you have to have a written Fire Risk Assessment.

      If you employ less, you have to have carried one out but do not have to have it in writing! How on earth you’d prove in a court of law that you did an assessment and kept it in your head, I have no idea.

      You are not covering the entire building as it’s not your responsibility. Your duty is to protect your staff and visitors. Also, it is not safe to assume that your landlord has done one or has done it correctly and used a qualified person. Have you seen their risk assessment?

      Click this link to see a very helpful Government information guide for all types of premises.

      I hope that helps a little.

      Jon
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  30. Hi Jon,

    could you please advise me if what I’ve been told is correct please.

    I have little corner shop and have been told I need 2 foam fire extinguisher and 1 co2 fire extinguisher, by a fire extinguisher company they said it’s because the size of my shop is under 400 meters squared so I need two with rating of 26a is this correct ? as my shop is only under 100 meters squared surly one would be enough wouldn’t ?
    Thanks in advance Dev

    • Hi Dev

      This is a very frustrating point of British Standard 5306 part 8 as it states

      For all floors in all buildings there should always be at least two class A extinguishers with a minimum combined total class A rating of:
      26A or, for floor areas more than 400m², 0.065×floor area (measured in m²).

      However, if you consider a business run from a shed or a Portakabin, or an old house converted into offices with one tiny office per floor, there probably wouldn’t be room for two extinguishers.

      The British Standard that he is quoting from is a ‘recommendation’ not the law.

      When you conduct a Fire Risk Assessment, as you have to by law (if you have 5 or more people, you must keep a written record), you can decide to only have one 13A rated extinguisher such as a 6ltr water spray. Make sure your staff knows how to raise the alarm in a fire and get everyone out, and how to use the extinguisher.

      To cover the likely electrical risks, a 2kg CO2 extinguisher is recommended.

      Check out those links and then compare the price to the prices you have been quoted.

      I hope this helps you save some of your hard-earned money 🙂

      Jon
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  31. ravi shanker sharma says:

    What is bursting pressure of co2 fire extinguisher?

    • That would depend on the manufacturer and the country. In the UK, the operating pressure tends to be around 50-55bar.

      The “test pressure” would be higher and I found a 2003 http://www.hse.gov.uk/cdg/pdf/standard/cd01issu02.pdf doc that states.

      “The minimum burst pressure shall not be less than 1.8 times the test pressure.”

      The extinguisher manufacturers buy in CO2 cylinders from specialist aluminium and steel cylinder manufacturers and I doubt they have the equipment to reach burst pressure. I recommend you ask a cylinder manufacturer as they are probably all different.
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  32. Hi Jon
    I have heard that their is a new type of extinguisher on the market that does not need a annual service, a P50 extinguisher, I have looked on line at this extinguisher and it says it requires exchanging every 10 years. My question is how can a extinguisher not be serviced annually by a competent person.

    • Thanks for your question, Alan. Here is my personal opinion.

      The P50 is made in the UK by a very good company, Britannia. There is much misunderstood about this extinguisher as it DOES need an annual service. But it is designed so that it only requires a very basic inspection. And anyone can do that so there’s no need to pay an extinguisher company.

      The unit costs a lot more but will last 10 years without needing a 5-year test.

      Compared to prices charged by some servicing companies, it’s a cost saving over 10 years and some councils and organisations have bought them so their in-house maintenance teams can inspect them.

      However, in the case of a fire, would you want to be the person that had inspected it without having the correct insurance or training if it did not work (all products will fail every now and again)? And, what will the insurance company say when you mention that you did not follow the British Standard for servicing and “did it yourself” to save money?

      Will they pay out? Would you want to find that out after a fire?

      Also, due to the manufacturing process, they cannot make a CO2 version so you have the choice of buying normal CO2s and having them serviced by a competent person, or deciding there’s no need for dedicated electrical extinguishers, when, for many, the humble 2kg CO2 is the most popular extinguisher in the entire UK range.

      The real question should be “why do fire extinguisher service companies continue to overcharge customers so much that they want to look for alternatives to save money?”

      The 10-year P50 price compared to a modern internet-based supplier with fixed price servicing is not such a good deal. The alternative in that link will get new extinguishers every 5 years and a competent service technician as expected by the insurance company. And the 10-year costs are around the same.

      Unfortunately, companies will not look at the longer-term costs when buying as they don’t realise what those costs will be.

      And, that’s my opinion 😉

      Jon
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      • Thanks for your opinion Jon. I have been a fire extinguisher service engineer for 20 years and just cannot see how you can get away with a person who has had just a basic knowledge of extinguishers to say yes this extinguisher is OK to use.
        Apparently according to Britania insurance company’s are fine with this, but as you say if anything happens are they still going to be of the same opinion.
        I just don’t see how they can get away without servicing to the British Standards.

  33. HI Jon

    Can you please clear something up for me.
    I have recently joined a service FM company and part of my remit is to carry out & yearly fire extinguisher ppm. Weigh the extinguisher, Check for any damages with the container & hose, Check pressure gages & make sure that they are in date and mark up as necessary. I have been told that by a friend who does this as part of his job for another company & says me or my company I work should not be doing this without being BAFE qualified & should stop doing this immediately? I took this with my supervisor who said he will check it out but believes my friend to be incorrect about being able to ‘Basic check’ and just need to be ‘
    competent’ following on to checking & ordering replacement extinguishers. He went on to say that he is properly referring to having the qualification to de gas & re gas as a repair. Please an you clear this up for me as it is making me feel wry uncomfortable about it. Any links or threads/written proof would be very helpful.Thank you.

    • Hi

      That’s not a basic check, it’s THE annual service.

      While you don’t have to be BAFE qualified, to service a fire extinguisher to British Standard 5306 Part 3, you have to be “competent”. That means that you have been trained, passed an exam and have the correct tools and spare parts.

      You won’t be insured and your customer is paying for a job that’s not being done correctly, as you have not been trained. Your company is saving a few hundred quid.

      When it all goes wrong, who do you think will be the fall guy?

      I would not fancy your chances in a court of law when the customer is in court for non-compliance with the Fire Safety Order.

      Of course, I’m not a lawyer, but did your supervisor give you that in writing, signed as an officer of the FM company?

      Why do you think companies pay for their engineers to be trained to do this if it’s not necessary?

      I’d stop if I was you. Was this in the job description or in your contract?

      Jon
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  34. Hi Jon,

    I have some fully charged outdated fire extinguishers I could like to fly them back to our head office for service, is it ok for me to uplift by air? Appreciate your advice.

    Martin

    • Hi

      I’m in the UK and have no idea where in the world you are.

      But, no, fire extinguishers cannot be air transported without very special “dangerous goods” packaging and insurance. It is likely to be illegal to transport by air, wherever you are.

      Jon
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  35. Hi Jon
    We are an FM company that employ a sub-contractor to test clients extinguishers. He has told us there are issues with extinguishers on some trams. They came with the trams from Spain are made by Gloria and carry a CE mark but no kite mark. The main issue being the operation which requires a red knob on top of the extinguisher being struck to activate the cartridge before it can be used. In the depot building they have standard extinguishers to BS which our man classes as being a different operating system in the same area. There are pictograms and instructions first in German then in English. I can see a reference to EN3 but not BS EN3. They are not colour coded. Are they OK?

    • Hello Russ

      I’m not sure why he is telling you there are issues. The Kitemark is not a requirement. BS EN3 is the British version of EN3 and is, essentially, the same standard. As long as the words are in English, there should be no problem.

      However, in my personal opinion, the tram owners should take it a little more seriously and spend a few quid to replace them with standard extinguishers that people can be expected to use in an emergency. It would help if they operated like most other extinguishers in the UK with squeeze grip operation.

      Also, the chances are that these are powder so I’ll quote this from British Standard 5306-8:2012 Selection and positioning of portable fire extinguishers – Code of Practice.

      “5.4.3 Use of powder extinguishers The discharge of a powder extinguisher within buildings can cause a sudden reduction of visibility and can also impair breathing, which could temporarily jeopardise escape, rescue or other emergency action. For this reason, powder extinguishers should generally not be specified for use indoors, unless mitigated by a health and safety risk assessment.”

      Although it’s not a building, I think the potential for problems in a confined space could help someone change them to foam extinguishers.

      Jon
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      • Hi Jon

        Thanks very much for your response. Basically what our guy has said is that if he went strictly to the letter of the law the extinguishers would fail to comply with BS, which is a requirement of our contract, but only for minor faults like colour coding, which he would not normally object to. However, his main concern is the operation, so it looks like you both concur.

        There are a number of extinguishers with a cost in excess of £5K to replace so you can see the clients problem. They are foam not powder so OK in that respect. The only thing that is bothering me is they have an EN3 number so I interpret that as being suitable in Europe but does not have the BS prefix for the UK, or is this not needed as long as the EN reference is there?

        Russ

        • Hi

          There is no “Law”. He is misunderstanding what the Standards are. Hopefully, he’s not trying the age-old sales tactic of “these don’t comply so you’ll need to replace them, mate”! British Standards are just a recommendation.

          I seriously cannot imagine why he’s not just servicing them. Apart from the fact that he’s probably never seen one like that before and has no clue what to do.

          EN3 = BS EN3. Our BS version has an extra standard attached to it that allows a coloured section. But, it’s EN3.

          As for the cost. A large 6 litre foam would cost £23. Others cost less. How many trams are there and where are these based? If it’s Sheffield, I can ask someone to come and have a look for free – an expert. Not related to us.

          Jon
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          • Thanks Jon

            You have been very helpful. The reference to “law” was just my slip of the tongue, using an old saying. Thanks very much for the offer but unfortunately we are based nearer Birmingham.

            Once again, thanks for your help its much appreciated.

            Russ

  36. Jon,
    We have an auditor just advise us that they are from 1st April 2017 going to recommend dry powder extinguishers be removed/replaced where they are used indoors. This is taken from their interpretation of BS 5306-8 – ….“For this reason, powder extinguishers should generally not be specified for use indoors, unless mitigated by a health and safety risk assessment”. Our clients are very diligent and have a very robust H&S approach to fire however they do listen to these ‘auditors’..!
    What are your thoughts on this proposed action?

    Regards

    IS

    • Hi Ian

      My thoughts are that, while I agree entirely, this has been the standard for 5 years. If you look at this page http://www.fireprotectiononline.co.uk/budget-6kg-powder-extinguisher.html, it clearly advises the same (but for the past few years, lol).

      To be clear, in most other countries powder is the norm indoors. They even have them in Walmarts in the USA. However, there are plenty of better alternatives in the UK and asthma sufferers could have problems.

      I strongly recommend just water spray (foam not necessary and will be the next to go with environmental issues) combined with a 2kg CO2.

      I’m not sure what you mean by an auditor. Is that a Fire Risk Assessor or an extinguisher service engineer?

      If it’s the engineer, remember that you are not obliged to buy his extinguishers. Check the online prices to compare. If you buy cheaper he will either match the price or not. But, he will gladly still service them the next year.

      Jon
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      • Thanks Jon.
        So if I read this correctly with a suitable and sufficient MSRA (MHSWR 1999) you agree that dry powder is still acceptable for use indoor or, would you recommend wholesale replacement no matter what the H&S provisions?

        IS

        • I can’t give very specific advice as I don’t know the premises or whether this is for a high-risk area such as flammable storage.

          The way I look at it is this. If you were in a court of law following an incident and the magistrate asked if you knew of the British Standard recommendation that said to not use powder fire extinguishers indoors, what would you say?

          If you have them in general use, they should not have been specified in the first place and I’d replace them with water and CO2. If they are in a high-risk area, foam will probably do a similar job.

          Does that help?

          Jon
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  37. Hi Jon
    I work in a factory that has 32 extinguishers onsite. We have them serviced every year (with only the occasional recharge in the last 10 years we was with the service company). WE changed our service contract at the beginning of this year and the new company has failed 6 Co2 and 1 foam and quoted me £600. Iam concerned on 2 fronts
    Can they not be recharged or do they have to be replaced?
    What happens to the old ones, do they dispose of them or is that our responsibility?

    either way I’m sensing something is not quite right here..

    Kind regards

    • Hi Dave

      It sounds as if the previous service company was not doing the job correctly as every extinguisher requires a discharge test and refill every 5 years (CO2 at 10 years), known as an “extended service”.

      The new company may be correct but, I don’t have the benefit of seeing them. Your should NOT have to pay that much but those prices sound normal for the old-fashioned service companies.

      If you look online, you can buy brand new foam extinguishers (click that link) for £23 to £37, made by Chubb Fire’s sister company. The lifetime of one of these is around 10 years so, if he discharged it and found rust or lifted lining inside – ask him to show you – then it needs replacing. If he has some other reason, he may be influenced by the commission he receives and his daily sales targets.

      CO2 extinguishers have to be pressure tested and recharged with a new valve. This is not worth the cost as a new CO2 costs £22 to £30. Again, these are made next to Chubb Fire’s by the same people.

      As for disposal, foam needs to be disposed of properly and all old extinguishers should be recycled (that shows a cost for certified disposal). They probably take them away when you buy new.

      If you feel (rightly) concerned, why not arrange for a fire survey from here for £40 from someone who is not paid commission. If anything needs replacing, it will be at internet prices and the £40 survey fee is refunded.

      Internet prices for brand new (5 year warranty, BSi Kitemarked) 6 x 2kg CO2 and 1 x 6ltr foam = approx £161 with free next day delivery plus and optional £68 commissioning (recommended).

      I trust that gives you some options.

      Jon
      Jon recently posted..Extinguishers For MetalsMy Profile

  38. That’s great – one more question
    The company we use are saying we need to replace these items before they will issue a certificate of inspection. Does this mean I will then need to book them to come and revisit and check the new devices I will have purchased from your link or will we be compliant as they are new?

    Your time is really appreciated

  39. Jenny Anderson says:

    Hi Jon
    We have a care home and have used the same service company for the past 5 years and have never had an issue. This year however we have had a bill which is more than double our usual cost. 12 co2 extinguishers have been pressure tested (service exchange), 1 water has been discharge tested and 2 waters replaced due to gauge failure during extended service.
    Can you explain why the gauges can’t just be replaced rather than the whole unit? There is also a note that existing equipment before they took over is Moyne Roberts, not sure if that’s any help.
    Jen

    • Hi Jen

      That must have come as a surprise. I’d advise contacting them to explain that any remedial works must be approved before they go spending your money again.

      If that happens, you;d be able to check prices online. A brand new 2kg CO2, made in Chubb Fire’s factory, costs £23 to £30. How much did they charge for exchanging for a 2nd-hand “service-exchange” unit (at least 10 years old, btw)?

      And, yes, gauges can be replaced. However, there is no industry training for replacing parts on various different extinguishers – seriously, it’s not part of the training – and, for the engineer, it would be a huge hassle as he’d have to ask his company to order them, wait for the delivery and return to finish a job that is not priced by the hour. 10 times out of 10, an engineer would say to replace the entire thing.

      Did he show you your failed equipment? Did he explain at the time? They belong to you, after all.

      Of course, he may also be paid commission, and that could affect his decisions. Moyne Roberts (they trade as Walker Fire for servicing), Chubb and most of the large ones pay commission on every single part and replacement.

      Mentioning that they are from Moyne Roberts is a snob thing. Most of the trade think that Moyne’s cheap Chinese extinguishers are not very good, despite them having the BSi Kitemark.

      I hope those CO2s were 10 years old. They don’t need testing until then.

      And, fyi, a ‘discharge test’ is the old name for an ‘extended service.

      Fire extinguisher servicing prices should be more transparent and offer money back guarantees, in our opinion 🙂

      Jon
      Jon recently posted..Extinguishers For MetalsMy Profile

  40. Jenny Anderson says:

    Hi Jon
    Thanks for getting back to me so promptly. They charged £36 for the co2 service exchanges, and yes I have checked our original list and certainly had co2 units that were 10 years old. Because I am not based on site the engineer couldn’t have shown me the failed equipment personally but the certificate has been signed by our assistant manager. This may be an area where we need to train our staff to better interact with service engineers etc., so that they are actually taking an interest rather than just signing to say that the work has been done. They have also replaced a lot of co2 horns saying that the old ones were showing signs of deterioration and have put frost free ones in place – is this industry standard or just a way to make money? Thanks for confirming that there is nothing wrong with Moyne Roberts as we still have some equipment on site.
    Jen

  41. Gary Whiteley says:

    Hi Jon

    If you have failed fire extinguishers must they be removed from site amidatly and replaced as soon as posable? Also what is the time scale that they must be replaced by.

    Thank you for your time

    • Hi Gary

      Nobody can give you a specific timeframe for this and most of the fire regulations rely on a certain amount of self-assessment. However, if they are “not fit for use”, technically, you are not complying with the Law if you drag out the time to replace them.

      Your options are, generally, to have them replaced on the spot by the technician that condemned them – as he would have new ones in his van if he’s qualified and bonafide – or to order replacements online. These should arrive the next day from the quality internet suppliers (and save you a fortune at the same time, probably).

      Is there a particular reason you ask? I cannot imagine a situation where you would need to know how long you can take to replace them. Nobody expects a fire so it’s as likely to happen today as any other time and your insurers are not very likely to entertain reasons for not replacing £25 fire extinguishers.

      If there are more details that may make a difference, please let me know and I’ll follow up.

      Jon
      Jon recently posted..Extinguishers For MetalsMy Profile

      • Gary Whiteley says:

        Hi Jon

        Thanks for the fast reply.

        Truth be told I am a Fire Extinguisher technician for a small family run buisness. I was in a debate with my boss as I recently removed and condmend 13 extinguishers from a site which has over 200 extinguishers, being a small company we order all materials are order for the specific job so in this case the extinguishers were ordered after I had completed the servicing for the site (this was yesterday). We had been busy today with another job while awating the extinguishers to be delived to be taken to site (which will be done tomorrow). My boss was in a panic that the extinguishers had to be on site today as they were missing from there stations. I had said to him that they have a copy of my service report which stated that the condemend extinguishers were being replaced so they should be ok until we install them as long as we dont leave it weeks or months to replace them. I was just wanting the check as this is something that wasn’t covered on my course.

        Gary

  42. Dominic Antcliff says:

    Hi,
    I work in a very large corporate environment, and we have hundreds of CO2 extinguishers on-site which are checked by security staff. 90% of them are showing out of date for test discharge by nearly a year. Since my department have a role as fire intervention team, does this make the extinguishers illegal?

    • Hi Dominic

      It’s not very easy to answer without all the facts. For example, do they also check the other fire extinguishers? Is there no annual service from a fire maintenance company? And are these CO2s over 10 years old?

      However, in the UK Fire Safety Order we have a very blurred line of legal/illegal. The British Standard is only guidance but, a court of law would normaly use that guidance to base their decisions upon.

      In simple terms, fire extinguishers must be serviced annually by a “competent person”. Checking dates is not servicing. I’m going to assume that those security people are not qualified extinguisher technicians.

      So, although those extinguishers cannot be defined as “illegal”, they should be serviced in accordance with BS 5306 part 3. If they are 10 years old, they must have an overhaul service. In fact, it’s cheaper to replace CO2s with new ones at around £23 for a 2kg instead of the 10-yea test..

      If there was an incident of some kind, that’s when it starts to hit the fan. At that point, magistrates take a dim view of company managers that don’t value staff, visitors, and customers and don’t want to pay for fire extinguishers when the rest of the country manages. When they see they are not being properly serviced, every single fire safety issue becomes a fine. Fines often start at £2000 per point.

      That’s also the time you do not want to have any fire safety role in the company as you may also be involved in any action that involves negligence.

      I’m not trying to scare you. But, that’s how it generally goes.

      Jon
      Jon recently posted..Extinguishers For MetalsMy Profile

  43. Do hose washers on extinguishers have to be replaced every year

    • In a nutshell, yes. Modern extinguishers tend to use rubber o-rings or rubber washers.

      A hose’s rubber o-ring is compressed in use and, during an annual maintenance visit, the service technician should remove the hose or CO2 horn to check it’s in serviceable condition and has not been stuffed with material to block it. The o-ring, having been static and compressed for so long, will have lost performance ability and should be replaced with a brand new one.

      However, I going to assume that you are a customer (if you are a service technician, you shouldn’t need to ask this question) and have been charged for new o-rings at a high cost and wonder if you are being ripped off.

      If that is so, then you have come across one of the methods to raise the income from servicing. O-rings cost pennies when bought from o-ring suppliers. They probably cost the servicing company 20p or so when bought from extinguisher manufacturers.

      Personally, I’d ask to see the old ones that got replaced as, far too often, they didn;t replace them at all and possibly don’t even have spares for all the types and sizes.

      The honest extinguisher service companies include all the little spare parts in the cost. They also sell new extinguishers at £25-£35 ish.

      I hope this answers your question. Please ask if you want to know more.

      Jon
      Jon recently posted..Extinguishers For MetalsMy Profile

  44. I have 5 fire extinguishers type A-B-C- Dry Powder and their manufacturing date is from 1995. A company checks them yearly but now they said that i must buy new because they are old in age and they cannot recharge them or be sure that they will work in case of fire.

    Is it true or they just said that because they want to sell more ?

    My question is, Since the bottle is just a plain metal bottle, why they don’t just change the whole mechanism and the powder and keep the bottle? isn’t that cheaper ?
    Yanni recently posted..Dry Powder ExtinguishersMy Profile

    • Hi Yanni

      I’m not sure if you are in the UK but can only comment from a UK perspective. And, I cannot see the items. However, first of all, you are saying that these life and property saving fire extinguishers are 22 years old. Do you seriously want to trust your life to them? To save the £25 or so to replace them with brand new ones?

      There will not be any parts available for such old products so British Standards state they cannot be kept in service. Also, if they are being serviced correctly, the 5-yearly extended service costs more to perform than to buy a new one.

      Please replace them. But note that powder fire extinguishers are not recommended for indoor use.

      Jon
      Jon recently posted..Extinguishers For MetalsMy Profile

      • Mr. Jon, thank you for your very quick reply !

        yes, i am not from UK but your answers

        what you are saying is true, and i am not taking any risks. i never thought about the parts.

        since we are dealing with paper they guided us to have also powder. we have in total around 25 extinguishers, CO2, foam, water and powder… so its not about the £25 each, but i was wondering if they are trying to cheat on us.

        but since we are having this discussion, i was wondering,

        maintenance is been made yearly. is it necessary for a maintenance EVERY year on all types??
        Yanni recently posted..Extinguishers For MetalsMy Profile

        • It does not sound like they are trying to cheat you.

          As for yearly maintenance, although I don’t know about your country, most countries (except those in snowy places where access is not easy) tends to have this requirement.

          If you have employees or visitors, you have a duty of care to protect them. 22-year-old extinguishers are extremely old and should be replaced, in my opinion. Even if they look as new. My company’s engineers would have advised replacement at 10 years.

          You mention paper fire risks. Powder is not good for paper as it has no cooling properties. Water or foam may be better.

  45. I got a very old1999 fire extinguisher.How much can I sell it for or what best thing I can do with it?

    • 1999 is not very old for a fire extinguisher. It needs to be disposed of safely so the best thing to do is take it to your local council tip. They should look after that for free if its domestic waste. There won’t be any value and most companies would charge to take it away.

      Jon
      Jon recently posted..Extinguishers For MetalsMy Profile

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