When Should Fire Extinguishers Be Visually Checked?

Fire Safety By Matthew Coombes

The Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order 2005 (RRFSO) is the legislation that covers fire safety, however it does not provide a specific timeframe for when fire extinguishers should be visually checked.

The RRFSO provides the following in regards to maintenance:
“17.—(1) Where necessary in order to safeguard the safety of relevant persons the responsible person must ensure that the premises and any facilities, equipment and devices provided in respect of the premises under this Order or, subject to paragraph (6), under any other enactment, including any enactment repealed or revoked by this Order, are subject to a suitable system of maintenance and are maintained in an efficient state, in efficient working order and in good repair.”

What this means is that any equipment provided to address fire risks such as fire extinguishers provided to fight fires, need to be maintained. There should be some system in place to ensure that the extinguishers are checked and that they are in working order.

However, the legislation doesn’t specify how it requires this to be done.

This is why the vast majority of companies and servicing/maintenance providers rely on the BSI British Standards documents. British Standards documents cover a wide variety of topics, and the one that we’re interested in for information on fire extinguishers is ‘BS5306-3 Portable Fire Extinguishers’.

This document recommends that the ‘Responsible Person’ for fire safety within the organisation (the one with the most control) should carry out (or delegate to a competent person) the monthly visual inspection of portable fire extinguishers. This is in addition to the yearly service carried out by a servicing engineer.

What to look for in a visual inspection?

  • Dents and cuts
  • Fire damage and abrasions
  • Corrosion / rust
  • Degradation of any plastic parts that may be under pressure such as burned plastic, painted plastic, or UV damage
  • That the hose/nozzle is able to be moved or stand erect so it can be pointed at a fire
  • That the extinguisher’s weight isn’t too low (indicating that it may have been used)
    Note: This is hard to do accurately, as extinguishers can have different weights, and printed weights on the neck of the extinguisher may or may not include the contents, or the weight may be difficult to read.
  • That the anti-tamper seal hasn’t been broken
  • That the pressure is in the green if a pressure gauge is on the device

If you were to have a walk-in visit or fire that triggers a visit from the fire service, they would likely want to see evidence of what steps you are taking to reduce fire risks in the workplace.

By recording maintenance, visual inspections, and meeting your other legal duties such as having an evacuation plan and risk assessment formalised, you can demonstrate that you are trying to be compliant with the law.

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