We have been asked often about the legal requirement for fire extinguishers in vehicles and the testing that is required.
There is no requirement in law for extinguishers in vehicles except in specific circumstances detailed in regulations other than the Fire Safety Order:
Below is a guideline for vehicles as best as we can gather. Requirements for differnt hazardous loads may vary. Please check your own requirement for what you need to carry.
- Vehicles carrying hazardous goods covered by the ADR regulations (2kg powder to cab & depending on the load may also require a combination of 6/9/12 kilo Powders to the load area)
- Buses, Minibuses or Coaches require a water or foam extinguisher (powder not allowed) in practice either a 1 or 2 litre foam is used
- Taxis may, depending on the licensing requirements of the issuing council may require an extinguisher with different councils recommending different types.
Other than that there are no requirements – HSE guides do recommend certain trade vans to carry one based on what they carry, but company cars do not require an extinguisher. They should however have a travelling first aid kit to meet the Health & Safety (First Aid) Regulations
If a fire extinguisher must be carried than the following British Standards should apply:-
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 document is broken down into the following sections:
- Definition of “Responsible Person”
- Definition of “Competent Person”
- Commissioning Service by Competent Person
- Maintenance Overview
- Weekly check by the Responsible Person
- Visual inspection by the Responsible Person
- Basic service by Competent Person
- Extended Service & Overhaul
- Recharging of Extinguishers
- Replacement of Components
- Evaluation of Fitness for Service
- Condemned Extinguishers
Throughout, references to the pertinent parts of the British Standards and/or other legislation have been included as footnotes.
Definition of “Responsible Person”
The Standard defines1 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”.
Please see the corresponding notes on ‘Responsible Person’ on our Fire Safety Order and Fire (Scotland) Act pages.
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 defines2 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, on going 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 introduces3 the necessary practice of commission of new fire extinguishers. New extinguishers are now required to be properly comprehensively commissioned by a Competent Person (as defined – see above).
Other than those extinguishers for which the standard provides no maintenance schedule4, 5 which should be condemned4, 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 weekly6.
- Visual inspection by the responsible person, conducted at least monthly7.
- Basic service by Competent Person, conducted at least on an annual basis8 (± 1 month9).
- 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 (as shown on the table below)8.
- Replacement, which should be performed by no later than at age 20 years9.
|Extinguisher Type||Weekly||At Least Monthly||At Least Annually9||Additional Requirements|
|Age 5yr||Age 10yr||Age 15yr||Age 20yr|
|Water & Foam (& Water-Based)||Weekly Check6||Visual Inspection7||Basic Service8||Extended Service8||Extended Service8||Extended Service8||Advise Replacement9|
|Powder (non primary-sealed only)||Weekly Check||Visual Inspection7||Basic Service8||Extended Service8||Extended Service8||Extended Service8||Advise Replacement9|
|CO2||Weekly Check6||Visual Inspection7||Basic Service8||-||Overhaul8, 11||-||Advise Replacement10|
|Class D Extinguishers12||Weekly Check6||Visual Inspection7||Basic Service8||Extended Service8||Extended Service8||Extended Service8||Advise Replacement10|
|Class F Extinguishers13||Weekly Check6||Visual Inspection7||Basic Service8||Extended Service8||Extended Service8||Extended Service8||Advise Replacement10|
|Halon||Now an offence to possess Halon extinguishers14|
|Excluded Types4, 5||Must now be condemned5|
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 weekly6. 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 weekly7 (or some higher frequency if determined by risk assessment7), and should check7 that each extinguisher:
- is located correctly;
- is unobstructed and visible;
- has it’s 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 required7. Where there is any doubt, the responsible person should arrange for the extinguisher to be examined by a Competent Person7.
Basic Service by Competent Person
The basic service by the Competent Person, should be conducted at least annually8 (± 1 month9) (or some higher frequency if determined by risk assessment15).
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 replacing16).
- Mandatory replacement of washers, ‘O’ rings, seals and diaphragms for horns, nozzles, hoses and valves whenever thesecomponents are removed17.
In addition to the basic service of the equipment as above, the Competent Person is also required18 to make any recommendations to ensure adequate and appropriate cover in compliance with BS 5306-8:2000.
“a service label should be placed on the fire extinguisher to not date of inspection and weight etc”
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 (as shown on the table above)8. 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 years8.
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. The schedule for this work is as per the table above.
Recharging of Extinguishers
BS 5306-3:2009 details19 requirements for the process by which extinguishers should be recharged following their complete or partial discharge.
Replacement of Components
BS 5306-3:2009 sets down20 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 requires21 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 assessment22. The extinguisher should also be removed from its designated place, and made safe22.
Evaluation of Fitness for Service – Condemned Extinguishers
BS 5306-3:2009 requires23 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 conditions24:
- 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 plastic 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)24:
- 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 schedule4, 5 should also be condemned4.
Full Copies of Standards
The British Standards are covered by copyright and are not available freely. However, these can be purchased at British Standard Online or alternatively, some libraries may carry copies of the more common standards.
Footnotes and References
- As per BS 5306-3:2009, clause 3.15.
- As per BS 5306-3:2009, clause 3.6 and Annex A.
- As per BS 5306-3:2009, clause 4 and Annex B.
- As per BS 5306-3:2009, clause 9.2.3.
- These include: Soda-Acid Portable Fire Extinguishers; Portable Fire Extinguishers with riveted body shell; Portable Fire Extinguishers with plastic body shell; Portable Fire Extinguishers that require inversion to operate; Non-refillable Portable Fire Extinguishers that have reached their expiry date; and Extinguishers manufactured after 2002 which do not carry a CE mark (excluding refurbished extinguishers).
- As per BS 5306-3:2009, clause 5, note 1.
- As per BS 5306-3:2009, clause 5.
- As per BS 5306-3:2009, clause 6.1, Table 1. The ages shown here are typical. Refer to the table, and specifically note (c) for detailed requirements.
- Tolerance of ± 1 month, from the minimum annual requirement as per BS 5306-3:2009, clause 6.1, Table 1, note B.
- Extinguishers should be replaced at 20 years because BS 5306-3:2009 clause 6.1, Table 1 would otherwise necessitate discharge-testing or refurbishing the extinguisher which is already coming to the end of it’s life, and is therefore economically unviable (the cost of discharge testing or refurbishing is usually a large proportion of the cost of replacement).
- The requirement for stretch testing CO2 extinguishers after 10 years is actually a legal requirement under the Pressure Systems Safety Regulations 2000.
- Class D extinguishers are powder extinguishers and treated thus in the British Standard. These details assume that the extinguisher in question is not a primary-sealed extinguisher.
- Class F extinguishers are water-based extinguishers and treated thus in the British Standard.
- The Montreal Protocol, it’s amendments in the 1990s, EC Regulation No 2037/2000 , The Environmental Protection (Controls on Ozone-Depleting Substances) Regulations 2002  and The Environmental Protection (Controls on Ozone-Depleting Substances) (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2003 have led to all Halon extinguishers being illegal to possess after 31st December 2003 except for the “critical uses” (as listed by Annex VII of EC Regulation No 2037/2000 ). These “critical uses” are very much the exception and, in those cases, this document does not detail the maintenance schedule required.
- As per BS 5306-3:2009, clause 6.1, Table 1, note D.
- As per BS 5306-3:2009, Annex D (normative), table D.2, action number 11.
- As per BS 5306-3:2009, Annex D (normative), table D.2, action number 13.
- As per BS 5306-3:2009, clause 22.214.171.124 (c).
- As per BS 5306-3:2009, clause 7.
- As per BS 5306-3:2009, clause 8.
- As per BS 5306-3:2009, clause 9.1.
- As per BS 5306-3:2009, clauses 9.2.1 and 9.3.
- As per BS 5306-3:2009, clause 9.2.1.
- As per BS 5306-3:2009, clause 9.2.2.
The majority of this article is taken from a very good site at Anderstore at http://anderstore.com/library/BS5306-3.asp