You see fire extinguishers in offices, your own home and in most buildings, but how much do you know about them?
All businesses need to stay compliant with fire safety in the workplace. Fire extinguishers are part of the appropriate fire equipment that you need. In the event of a fire, they are your first line of defence, helping to control fires before they get out of hand.
Why do I need a fire extinguisher?
First and foremost, a fire extinguisher protects you from a fire. They can literally save a life if a fire occurs. When used early and effectively, extinguishers prevent the fire from spreading further and damaging surrounding areas and buildings. By minimising the spread of pollutants from fires, they also help protect the environment.
Whilst response times for primary fires and secondary fires reduced between the years 2018/19 and 2019/20, the past decade has seen longer response times to fires. This highlights the importance of the role that a fire extinguisher and a first-responder have to play in the event of a fire, with 88% of fires being put out by fire extinguishers in 2018.
The presence of a ready-to-use fire extinguisher in your workplace could be crucial to the safety of your organisation and staff. You should, therefore, understand how to perform checks to ensure it is functional when you need it most.
How do I check a fire extinguisher?
Once you have a fire extinguisher, it can be easy for it to just become part of the furniture. However, it’s essential to check them regularly, as you don’t want to be unprepared if a fire does happen.
To complete your check, follow the steps below:
First, you must check that your fire extinguisher is visible for everyone to see in its designated location, which should be made aware to all staff, and that it has the instructions facing outwards so that anybody intending to use it can follow them whilst it is still mounted.
Ensure there are no obstacles in front of the extinguisher - it is not a doorstop either. It needs to be easily reached in the event of an emergency.
- Physical damage
Check for any signs of physical damage to the fire extinguisher, including corrosion or leakage. It could have been damaged by being moved or dropped. You should also check to see if there are any missing parts.
The pressure gauge or indicators need to be in the correct range or position. A green mark on your gauge should indicate this.
- Tamper seal and pull pin
If the seal is broken, this could mean it may have already been used. If the pull pin is missing, this is another sign someone might have tried to use it. If either of these has happened, it’s probably time to replace it.
Once you have completed each check of your fire extinguisher(s), if any of them are damaged, missing, or have been used, these should be reported immediately, as well as any service tags that have expired.
How often do fire extinguishers need inspecting and servicing?
In line with BS 5306 documentation, the British Standards require yearly maintenance and inspection of fire extinguishers, as well as all other fire protection equipment, ensuring you've got a serviceable fire extinguisher at your time of need.
Monthly inspections, as outlined above, should be performed by your designated person or fire marshal. Annual services, though, must be carried out by a qualified engineer. An extended service is also required after a longer period of time, depending on the type of fire extinguisher. Extended services are required every 5 years for almost all types of fire extinguishers, with the exception of CO2 extinguishers, which require an extended service on a 10-year cycle. These extended services will also need to be carried out by a fire extinguisher engineer. There should be a label on the fire extinguisher to show when it was last checked to help keep you on track.
Learn more about fire extinguishers and fire safety
If you want to learn more about fire extinguishers, how to use them and what to do in an event of a fire, or you just want to update your knowledge, our Fire Safety courses are perfect for you or your staff. Make sure your Responsible Person knows their duties and how to carry them out with Fire Marshal training. Our Fire Safety Train the Trainer course teaches learners all about fire safety and certify them to train their peers in the future. Discover more of our Care Train the Trainer courses.
Fire extinguishers are an essential piece of equipment to combat a fire in your workplace, so keeping them fully serviced and inspected could make a vital difference in this instance. Different kinds of fire require different types of fire extinguishers, discover these differences with our blog.
Let us know your thoughts and leave a comment below!