Fire Extinguishers Explained: BS5306 Part 3
Below is a summary of good practice and the key points of the parts of BS 5306-3:2009 relating to the commissioning and maintenance of portable fire extinguishers. Readers are referred to the British Standard itself for full details and reminded that this is a summary only.
This standard, published July 2009, fully replaces BS 5306-3:2003, which is withdrawn.
Definition of “Responsible Person”
The Standard defines the responsible person as being “the person or persons responsible for, or having effective control over, fire safety provisions adopted in or appropriate to the premises or building or risk where an extinguisher is installed” noting that “[f]or the purposes of this part of BS 5306, the term “responsible person” includes a nominated representative, and is the person defined by this term in the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005”.
Most commonly, the responsible person will be the employer, landlord, etc.
Please note that that the term ‘person’ is a legal term in this context and, in addition to referring to an individual, it may equally refer to an incorporated company, a partnership, etc.
Definition of “Competent Person”
The Standard comprehensively defines the necessary elements of competency to undertake the maintenance of fire extinguishers. The definition refers to qualifications (obtained from a BAFE recognised independent examination body), induction training, ongoing training (leading again to the passing of an examination), experience, tools, etc.
Under the standard, and under current legislation, it is the duty of the responsible person to ensure the competency of those undertaking maintenance.
The 2009 revision of the standard introduces the necessary practice of commission of new fire extinguishers. New extinguishers are now required to be properly comprehensively commissioned by a Competent Person.
Other than those extinguishers for which the standard provides no maintenance schedule which should be condemned, portable fire extinguishers should be maintained as set out in this standard.
The maintenance cycle for extinguishers should consist of the following key stages:
- Weekly check by the responsible person, conducted at least weekly.
- Visual inspection by the responsible person, conducted at least monthly.
- Basic service by Competent Person, conducted at least on an annual basis (± 1 month).
- Extended service & overhauls, which, except for CO2 extinguishers and a few certain other exceptions, are carried out after the first five years, and then at five yearly intervals thereafter.
- Replacement, which should be performed by no later than at age 20 years.
The Responsible Person’s Weekly Check
The standard notes that the responsible person (or their nominated representative) should undertake a brief check of the extinguishers at least weekly. This should check whether the extinguisher has been operated or damaged.
The Responsible Person’s Visual Inspection
In addition to the above brief weekly checks, The responsible person (or their nominated representative), should also undertake a more rigorous visual inspection at least weekly (or some higher frequency if determined by risk assessment), and should check that each extinguisher:
• is located correctly;
• is unobstructed and visible;
• has its clean and legible operating instructions facing outward;
• has not been operated, is not obviously damaged, and is not missing parts;
• has a pressure gauge (where fitted) that reads in the operable and safe range; and
• has seals and tamper indicators that are not broken or missing.
The responsible person should arrange any corrective action required. Where there is any doubt, the responsible person should arrange for the extinguisher to be examined by a Competent Person.
Basic Service by Competent Person
The basic service by the Competent Person, should be conducted at least annually (± 1 month) (or some higher frequency if determined by risk assessment).
The specifics of the basic service are too complex to list here (and the reader is referred to the British Standard for full details), but will include, depending on extinguisher type, the following:
- External examination for signs of corrosion, dents, splits, gauges or other damage.
- Examination and checking of pressure indicating devices.
- Measurement of pressure, weight, etc to ensure that there is the correct amount of both medium and propellant gas.
- Checking of all applicable parts to ensure good working order (this will include removal of the safety pin, BS 5306-3:2009 compliant pull-tag and other anti-tamper indicators, which, in many cases, will need replacing).
- Mandatory replacement of washers, ‘O’ rings, seals and diaphragms for horns, nozzles, hoses and valves whenever these components are removed.
In addition to the basic service of the equipment as above, the Competent Person is also required to make any recommendations to ensure adequate and appropriate cover in compliance with BS 5306-8.
Extended Service & Overhaul
Except for CO2 extinguishers and a few certain other exceptions, the extended service is normally carried out after the first five years, and then at five yearly intervals thereafter. This should be arranged at the time of the basic service.
In the case of CO2 extinguishers, the overhaul is carried out after the first 10 years.
In addition to the procedure followed for the basic service, the extended service includes more rigorous checks including discharge tests or, in the case of CO2 extinguishers, hydraulic pressure tests.
Replacement of Components
BS 5306-3:2009 sets down the requirements for replacement components and extinguishing media. Specifically, it stipulates that only those supplied or specified by the manufacturer of the extinguisher, or equivalents, should be used.
Evaluation of Fitness for Service
BS 5306-3:2009 requires that extinguishers that are found to be defective are to be categorised and marked as “Condemned” or “Not maintained”. In both cases, the extinguisher should be made safe and marked accordingly, along with the reason(s) for that assessment. The extinguisher should also be removed from its designated place, and made safe.
Evaluation of Fitness for Service – Condemned Extinguishers
BS 5306-3:2009 requires that extinguishers with a “major defect or defects which make it unsafe for use, and which cannot be rectified during maintenance”, should immediately be made safe, removed from its
designated place, and marked “condemned” together with the reason for this assessment.
It goes on to give examples of indicative conditions:
• corrosion, wear or damage to threads of any pressure retaining part;
• corrosion of welds;
• extensive general corrosion or severe pitting;
• dents or gouges in the body;
• fire damage to the body or body fittings;
• any split in a plastics lining;
• lifting or detachment of a plastics lining from the body;
• corrosion of the metal body under a plastics lining;
• corrosion of the metal body under a zinc or tin/lead lining.
Further reasons include the following (unless rectified by fitting of appropriate components):
• overpainting or application of any other coating, film or colouring to any plastics component that could be subject to pressure;
• UV degradation of plastics components;
• illegible marking or operating instructions;
• instructions not in English.
Additionally, all extinguishers for which the standard provides no maintenance schedule should also be condemned.
Information in this guide is given in good faith, but Cannon Fire and Security cannot be held responsible for any omissions or errors. The company reserves the right to change specifications of products at any time and without prior notice
For more information please visit www.cannonsecurity.co.uk, call 0117 974 8999 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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