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Fire Extinguishers

Fire Extinguisher maintenanceMaintenance
Fire extinguishers do not have an indefinite life, even if they are never actually used. Their contents can lose pressure, the inside of the canisters are prone to rust and corrosion if liquid contents, and the canister seams can be weakened by continual high pressurization. Seals can deteriorate, valves can stick, and fire extinguisher can become knocked and dented simply by being part of a building’s fixtures and fittings.

Fire extinguisher annual maintenance
Fire extinguisher maintenance and care in accordance with the Code of Practice stipulated in British Standard 5306 part 3 should be integrated into your premises Fire Risk Assessment and is, in effect, a legal requirement of the RegulatoryReform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. Annual inspections (or more frequent for high risk locations or corrosive environements) by a Minder Alarms competent person will involve inspecting every fire extinguisher, and identifying those extinguishers which need repressurising, require replacement parts, or which have reached the end of their useful lives.

Fire Extinguisher TestFire extinguishers: refurbishment verses replacement
Refurbishing fire extinguishers is a long process, requiring inspections, removal of your fire extinguishers to a factory, replacement parts, pressure testing, refilling, repressurising, and finally the return of your extinguishers back to your premises.

These days, most servicing companies just service exchange the unit for a ready-tested model although this can leave you with a different, sometimes inferior, model to the original. Service exchange generally costs half the price of a new extinguisher from Minder. Many businesses have discovered it is far more time and cost effective to simply replace their fire extinguishers with new ones, and recycle their old extinguishers.

Wall HangingCheck your business fire extinguishers every month
A visual check on your fire extinguishers once a month takes very little time, but can save both money and lives and is part of your legal duty.

1. Check that your fire extinguishers are on their proper fire extinguisher floor stands or wall hanging brackets, andaccess to them is unobstructed. Check that all fire extinguisher stands are undamaged, and that all wall brackets are secure. Check that signage is also unobstructed, so staff can easily see where fire extinguishers are located in the event of an emergency. Replace any worn, peeling or damaged signage.

Fire Extinguisher PressureFire Extinguisher Pin2. Check the pressure gauge where fitted. The gauge needle should be in the green zone. If it is in the red, either have the fire extinguisher repressurised, or replace it with a new fire extinguisher.

3. Check that all seals are intact, that the safety pin is in place and secured by a tamper-evident seal or OK indicator. Gently dust or vacuum the extinguisher top toremove dust from the important valve, gauge and nozzle areas, and invest in a fire extinguisher cover if the area is particularly dusty, dirty or greasy.

4. Check the fire extinguisher cylinder for any signs of leakage, rust spots ordents. If you find any, replace the fire extinguisherimmediately and safely dispose of the old one. If a fire extinguisher is badly damaged, do NOT move it yourself in case the canister explodes. Call in a professional fire extinguisher company who will remove it safely.

5. Check that the labeling remains clear and sharp to read. Some guides recommend you gently shake small powder extinguishers to prevent the contents from settling into a cake. In practice, you need to hold the unit upside down next to your ear without shaking so you can hear the loose powder gradually fall. Do not try this with large extinguishers.

6. Finally, take a moment to look around the space to see if anything has changed that will affect either the operation, provision or location of your fire extinguishers. Is a new filing cabinet obscuring a sign, or has a new machine been installed in the area requiring access to a CO2 fire extinguisher?

Safe disposal of old fire extinguishers
Most important to remember is that a fire extinguisher is usually under pressure and removal of any of the parts can be dangerous without proper training. People have been killed trying to do this in the past. Old but still safe fire extinguishers are ideal for staff fire training sessions, but, in reality only plain water and CO2 are safe to use at mostpremises. Only plain water fire extinguishing agents can be emptied into drains, whilst powder needs to be disposed of in sealed bags and sent to landfill. Small quantities of used fire extinguishers can be disposed of at your local council amenity site, whilst larger quantities should be disposed of through Minder. All business owners have legal dutyof care to properly dispose of waste, so allow Minder to carry controlled waste.

Recycling fire extinguishers
Minder have access to specialist refurbishing and refilling companies. Most parts of old fire extinguishers can be recycled, from the headcaps, valves and tubes to the contents themselves. The fire extinguisher body is then fully inspected and pressure tested, and if sound, will be reused. If not, the canister is either pierced or cut in half to prevent further use, and scrapped.

3 Fire Extinguishers

How to use extinguishers
Fire extinguishers are an extremely effective item of fire fighting equipment, but only if you know how to use them properly.There really is no substitute for hands-on training, so if your company offers this, leap at the chance.

If you own a business, when periodic discharge tests are due or we are replacing your old but safe fire extinguishers with new ones, consider using the older extinguishers for invaluable hands-on training for your staff.

If in doubt, get out!
When considering whether to tackle a small fire yourself if you discover one, always bear in mind the golden rule of fire safety; If in doubt, get out, stay out and call the Fire Brigade immediately.

Using a fire extinguisher on a class A, B or C fire
These fires are the most common that you might be required to deal with. Most water, water additive, CO2 and powder fire extinguishers work in the same way, regardless of shape or size. An easy way to remember what to do when operating a fire extinguisher is to think of the acronym PASS.

PULL the safety pin out, to free the lever on top of the extinguisher.
AIM the fire extinguisher nozzle or hose at the base of the fire, standing around 8 feet back from the fire.
SQUEEZE the handle to release the fire-fighting agent.
SWEEP the nozzle or hose across the base of the fire (not the flames) until it is fully extinguished.

Using a fire extinguisher on a class D fire
Class D fires involving flammable metals require specialist fire extinguishers and fire extinguishing materials which have a special lance and low velocity applicator. You should always be given full training in the use of these specialised extinguishers.

Using a fire extinguisher on a class F fire
Class F fires involving cooking oils and fats should only be tackled using a wet chemical fire extinguisher and this needsspecial training to be used effectively.

Using a fire extinguisher on or near electrical equipment
Only use a fire extinguisher on or near electrical equipment if the extinguisher carries the electrical safety icon, (a lightning flash with arrow). These would normally be CO2, powder, clean agents and water mist. The best fire extinguisher safe to use directly on live electrical equipment is a CO2 fire extinguisher.

CO2 CanisterUsing a CO2 fire extinguisher
When using CO2 fire extinguishers with a “swivel horn”, be careful not to hold the extinguisher by the horn. As the CO2 is released, ice rapidly forms on the horn and your skin may get frozen and burnt as a result.

Note: Many new 2kg CO2 extinguishers feature a “frost-free” horn that is safe to hold. However, it will not be obvious to most which ones are safe and which ones are not. For that reason, we still recommend not holding it at all. Larger CO2 fire extinguishers should have a hose and horn. You can safely hold this horn by it’s handle or by the end of thehorn that joins to the hose. For more details, see our Carbon Dioxide Fire Extinguishers page.

Fire Extinguisher TestingYou may have the best quality, shiniest fire extinguishers in your business premises, but they will only be effective if your staff can find them when they need them most! Fire safety equipment signs are a vital part of your fire safety provision for your office, factory, warehouse, hotel, shop, or outdoor site.

Fire safety signs: what the law says:
Health and Safety regulations require all owners of premises to use safety signs, quote, “Where there is a significant risk to health and safety that has not been avoided or controlled by the methods required under other relevant law, provided the use of a sign can help reduce the risk.” All signs also need to conform to the British Standard Code of Practice for safety signs (BS 5499-10:2006)

Seeing red: fire extinguisher safety signs
All fire equipment signs feature a red background with white graphics. These familiar red signs indicate where you and your colleagues can find fire extinguishers and other firefighting equipment, such as fire hoses or breathingapparatus. Fire extinguisher signs often combine vital information for users on one easy-to read sign. For example, a combination sign might include:

A red fire equipment sign for an extinguisher at the top.
A blue information sign detailing the extinguisher type.
Green information symbols indicating the types of fire the extinguisher can be used on.

So, your fire extinguisher sign can be a ‘one-stop shop’ of vital information in an emergency. Now you need to ensure everyone can see it!

Fire safety sign placement
Placing your signs in the right places can give you staff vital extra seconds in an emergency. Make sure that every fire extinguisher has an appropriate sign not just at extinguisher level, but at eye level as well. Remember that not everyone is the same height, so eye level for some is sky level for others! Also consider the needs of any disabled members of staff, whose eye-line may be different again. Always place your fire extinguishers where they can easily be accessed, and their associated fire safety sign can be seen at all times, so don’t site them behind a door or near a coat rack, for example. If you have new premises or are renovating your old offices, your local Fire Officer or a professional fire risk assessor will be happy to help with advice on correct and effective placement.

Fire Extinguisher StandsFire extinguisher stands and signs
Despite modern advancesin technology, fire extinguishers are still heavy items. Modern office partition walls and old brick walls in older premises may not be robust enough to support the weight of an extinguisher mounted on the wall. A better option is a fire extinguisher stand, which also protects your fire extinguishers from accidental knocks. These red, grey or cream rigid plastic floor stands give your extinguishers a safe and sturdy home, and protect your carpetstoo! For external use, tough steel frame Fire Point stands are also available.

Missing SignsWalking fire extinguishers: do they exist?
From the number of times office fire extinguishers seem to move from their original positions to prop open doors, etc, you might be forgiven for thinking they had legs! Fire extinguisher signs can help you instantly identify any gaps, as some designs feature a 'Missing' graphic.

Simply place your extinguisher in front of the graphic, and if the extinguisher is subsequently moved, you’ll see 'Missing' in large letters.



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