Maintaining & Servicing Your
Fire Extinguishers

Last Updated: September 18, 2021

Maintaining fire extinguishers:

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RRO) outlines the legal requirements of the responsible person for the safety of your building, employees, and visitors. This includes the provision of adequate fire safety equipment throughout the building. Simply providing the equipment for firefighting and protection is not enough. You must routinely inspect and maintain the equipment to ensure that it will function correctly in an emergency.

For fire extinguishers to be fully effective in emergencies, they must be properly maintained and inspected under the guidelines as set out by the regulations BS 5306-3: 2017.

What is BS 5306?

BS 5306-0: 2020 is the British Standard for Fire protection installations and equipment on premises. Guide for selection, use, and application of fixed firefighting systems and other types of fire equipment

BS 5306-3: 2017 covers the code of practice for Commissioning and maintenance of portable fire extinguishers.

BS 5306-8: 2012 covers the code of practice for Selection and positioning of portable fire extinguishers.

BS 5306-9: 2015 covers the code of practice for Recharging of portable fire extinguishers.

These describe the multiple skills required to competently provide fire extinguisher services to fulfil your fire safety obligations. 

BS 5306-3 does note “It is the duty of the responsible person to ensure that extinguishers are maintained regularly by a competent person. Portable fire extinguishers are regarded as “life safety equipment” and a planned system of maintenance is intended to ensure that the equipment is:

  • in an efficient working state (safe);
  • in working order (reliable);
  • in good repair (efficient);
  • suitable for the hazard (fit for purpose).”

What is fire extinguisher maintenance?

Fire extinguisher maintenance is undertaken by a qualified engineer who will carry out several checks in order to establish if everything is in working order. Typical maintenance included in an annual service consists of the following:

  • Carrying out a visual inspection.
  • Checking the extinguisher has not been used or tampered with.
  • Taking a pressure gauge reading.
  • Removing the discharge hose to check for blockages or corrosion.
  • Weigh and clean the extinguisher.
  • Ensure wall mountings are secure.

You need to have complete peace of mind that in an emergency your extinguisher will function in the right way at the right time – regular maintenance will help to ensure this.

How should different fire extinguishers be serviced?

There are five main types of extinguisher: water, foam, powder, wet chemical, and CO2. However, the way an extinguisher is serviced depends on the way it is operated, not the type of extinguisher agent it uses.

Extinguishers are operated in two ways:

Stored Pressure: The expellant (pressurising gas) is stored in the same cylinder as the extinguisher agent itself. Depending on the agent used, different propellants are used. With dry chemical extinguishers, nitrogen is typically used; water and foam extinguishers typically use air. Stored pressure fire extinguishers are the most common type.

Cartridge Operated: The extinguisher agent is kept in the main cylinder that is not pressurised while the expellant is stored in a separate cartridge that is released into the main cylinder, once the handle is squeezed, resulting in the cartridge being pierced, exposing the propellant to the extinguishing agent. This type is not as common.

How often should fire extinguisher maintenance be done?

According to the British Standard BS5306-3: 2017, all types of fire extinguishers should undergo a basic service at least once a year, more frequently in high use, dirty, or potentially damaging environments or if any damage is identified during the monthly visual inspection.

Regardless of the type of extinguisher being used in your building, a monthly visual inspection will also need to be conducted to check for any damage or pressure changes.

Every five years most fire extinguishers (water, water-based, and powder) need a more detailed maintenance check, called an extended service. This means completely discharging the extinguisher, checking for internal corrosion, refilling, and repressurising.

For primary sealed powder and Carbon Dioxide (CO2) extinguishers, being high-pressure vessels, an extended service is only required every 10 years. This involves a hydrostatic pressure test, to comply with pressure vessel legislation and a new valve. These tests cannot be performed on-site, and so service exchange ‘overhauled/refurbished’ extinguishers are installed, and the original extinguishers are taken away for testing. Due to the onerous requirements of this process, it can be cheaper to purchase a new extinguisher.

Who carries out fire extinguisher maintenance?

Current fire legislation requires that you, as the responsible person, only use a competent person to maintain fire extinguishing equipment.

Basic servicing and extended servicing must always be carried out by a qualified engineer as both processes involve a thorough inspection that will determine whether the fire extinguisher is fit, or unfit, for use. Most engineers will be BAFE accredited, meaning they are competent in providing specific fire protection services.

Why is regular servicing is important?

Regular maintenance of your fire extinguishers is not only particularly important but it is a legal requirement under BS5306-3: 2017 and the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

Regular maintenance ensures that fire extinguishers are working efficiently and can be used effectively in the case of a fire emergency.

What is a self-service fire extinguisher?

These cost-effective virtually service-free fire extinguishers eliminate the need for a 3rd party servicing company to check them every year, reducing your annual maintenance costs dramatically whilst delivering environmental savings.

These extinguishers are made from an ultra-tough composite material that cannot corrode, giving it a long life cycle of 20 years.

Due to this, only a simple visual inspection and a check of the gauge with a magnet are required, and these can be done by a nominated representative of the business e.g., responsible person, fire warden, manager, etc. reducing the need for annual maintenance and cutting costs.

Please note that this article provides basic easy-to-understand guidance of fire safety provisions and the key fire safety information required to comply with legislation. Our articles are reviewed regularly. However, any changes made to standards or legislation following the review date will not have been considered. We aim to assist you to understand the fire-related terms within your Fire Risk Assessment.  It does not provide detailed technical guidance on all fire safety provisions, and you might require further advice or need to consult the full standards and legislation.

Fire Risk Consultancy Services have the knowledge and experience to assist your business to comply with all legal requirements surrounding Fire Safety including the legislation regarding Fire Alarms. Be sure to read our accompanying guides: Guide to Classes of Fire in the UK from A to F, Types of Fire ExtinguisherHow Many Fire Extinguishers Do I Need?, Siting of Fire Extinguishers, Chrome Fire Extinguishers,  P50 Fire Extinguishers AND Fire Alarm System Types, Emergency Lighting, Fire Door Regulations, Fire Safety Signs, also published on this site. 

Please take a moment to have a look around our website where you will find related articles and guides to all the services we can provide your business with, from providing Fire Risk Assessments, fire safety training, full advisory service to Articles on Fire Safety Provisions and our Top Fire Safety Tips!