Fire extinguishers play a fundamental part in minimising the effects fire can cause – but only if you ensure they’re adequately maintained and appropriately used. So, in case you’re unfamiliar with them, here are five facts you need to know about when it comes to your business’ fire extinguishers.

1. They must be recharged after every use

Whether a small amount of extinguishing agent accidentally discharged or you actively released some to fight a fire, always top up what’s been used for when it’s next needed.

It might seem trivial at the time but, in reality, that top-up could actually save a life, so make it your priority to act promptly.

2. They don’t last forever

Fire extinguishers don’t last forever. That’s not to say they have an expiration date, but you can’t simply purchase one, put it out and then push it to the back of your mind.

To keep your business, your employees and your visitors safe, it’s really important that you have – and stick to! – a robust maintenance ritual (we’ll cover what this is in more detail in point four), and remember:

Disposable extinguishersMust be replaced every 12 years.
Re-chargeable canistersMust pass a hydro test every 12 years to remain in use.

3. Different extinguishers are needed for different fire and fuel types

There are five different types of fire extinguishers: water, foam spray, CO2, ABC powder and wet chemical. But the variation doesn’t stop there. There are different types of fires, too:

  • Ordinary flammable materials (wood, paper, and textiles)
  • Flammable liquids (grease, paint, and gasoline)
  • Gaseous fires
  • Kitchen combustibles (cooking oils and deep fat fires)
  • Live electrical equipment
  • Flammable metals.

With those distinctions in mind, it’s important that the fire extinguishers fitted in your premises fulfil the needs of the types of fires that have the potential to occur.

4. They must be regularly maintained

It’s really important that you stick to regular visual and physical inspections of your fire extinguishers.

Visual inspections: these should be done on a monthly basis and by a competent person.

During visual inspections, pay particular attention to things like:

  • Where is the fire extinguisher placed?
  • How easy is it to access?
  • Is it fully charged?
  • Is both the pin and seal in place?
  • Is there any visible damage to any part(s) of the extinguisher?
  • Is the nozzle free from any blockages?

Physical inspections: your fire extinguishers should be serviced once a year by a qualified and experienced technician. During this, they’ll lookout for things like:

  • The condition of your fire extinguishers, and
  • The location, number, and type of your extinguishers.

They should also inform you of any deficiencies, recommend remedial work, and provide you with a certificate so that you can demonstrate compliance with enforcing authorities – should you need to.

5. P.A.S.S must be followed when they’re in use

Only trained and competent people should operate a fire extinguisher, and when they do, P.A.S.S should be at the forefront of their mind:

  • Pull the pin from the top of the extinguisher to activate it
  • Aim the extinguisher at the base of the fire to fight it
  • Squeeze the handle slowly – if you do it too quickly, the shock and speed of diffusion could cause your hand to freeze to the tube
  • Sweep from side to side at the base of the fire.

Even if you’re competent and trained to use a fire extinguisher if you don’t feel comfortable tackling the situation at hand, don’t – and that message applies to anyone who’s authorised to act in the event if a fire.

Some common causes for discomfort include fires that are larger than the size of a paper bin and occasions where the contents of the bin are unknown – i.e. could there be an aerosol in it?

Got a question?

We do provide Fire Risk Assessments to take the weight off your shoulders. For more information on how we can help you and your business, simply speak to us by calling 0114 244 4461 or fill out our contact form here, and we’ll call you back.