When fire extinguishers are purchased from a web site they will probably be delivered by courier in a van. It is therefore not possible to ‘commission’ them before they are sent out as they could be damaged, discharged or have lost pressure en-route.
British Standard 5306-3 recommends that extinguishers be commissioned on-site by a competent person.
British Standards are recommendations, not legal requirements. However, the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 states that any equipment (such as fire extinguishers) should be subject to a suitable system of maintenance and be maintained in an efficient state, in efficient working order and in good repair.
The procedure for commissioning is as follows:
- Attach the discharge nozzle (if not already attached)
- Check the tamper device is intact;
- If a pressure gauge is fitted, check it is in the green;
- Check the extinguisher for corrosion or damage;
- Weigh the extinguisher and record on the maintenance label.
A Note of Warning On ‘Pre-Serviced’ Fire Extinguishers
Occasionally, you may come across the practice of online fire extinguisher retailers offering pre-serviced fire extinguishers. What they offer is the inspection of the extinguisher in their warehouse and the addition of a maintenance label on the extinguisher. Sometimes, they even claim that this service is in accordance to BS5306.
However, this practice is NOT in accordance to BS5306 for very good reasons:
- Damage to extinguishers like loss of pressure, loss of extinguishing medium, bent handles and hoses which make the extinguisher inoperable do not occur whilst the extinguisher is in the warehouse, but all of these issues can occur in transit to the customer after the supplier has already declared the extinguisher ‘fit for operation’.
- This puts lives at risk, especially if suppliers do not protect extinguishers adequately for shipment. BSI has therefore changed the standard BS5306 to require an ON SITE commissioning for all extinguishers installed under BS5306. This entails a full check of the extinguishers as they arrive on site and the correct weighing, preparation and certification of the extinguishers. Only then can you use the certification document as proof that you have taken your responsibility in accordance to your fire risk assessment seriously.
- Pre-servicing or pre-labelling is therefore not permitted any longer. If you require your extinguishers to be installed in accordance to BS5306 you must have the extinguishers commissioned on site or alternatively you can have them installed and commissioned on site by a servicing company.
- BS5306 conformity is always required if you are a business or landlord or if you have to carry out a fire risk assessment.
- The facts are that the internet cannot commission extinguishers or provide a trained operative with a fully equipped vehicle to service, supply and fit extinguishers, signs and sundry equipment.
Maintaining Internet Supplied Equipment
Many BAFE and ISO accredited companies, such as Brookside Fire Service, are only agreeing to maintain internet supplied equipment once a full commissioning service has been carried out by a competent technician.
The price of a fire extinguisher is not determined by the costs involved in merely delivering a box to your premises. To maintain the level of service we provide, it is necessary to allow for vehicle costs, stock and refills available for immediate supply when receiving customers instructions. The cost also has to include the tools and training to ensure technicians are fully capable of dealing with customers requests for:-
- Information and advice regarding relevant standards and legislation
- Installation of additional equipment
- Refilling or replacing equipment following usage
Additionally, if the manufacturer has not marked the mass for the extinguisher, the competent person should consult the manufacturer’s workshop manual for that model or consult with the manufacturer to obtain this information. (This cannot be carried out in cases where the extinguishers are manufactured abroad and supplied without relevant service and maintenance instructions)
Upon completion of the above procedures the extinguisher should then be installed and positioned in accordance with B.S.5306-8.
A ‘competent person’ is a person with qualifications, training and experience. They must have access to the relevant tools, equipment and information, manuals and knowledge of any special procedures recommended by the manufacturer of an extinguisher, to carry out the relevant maintenance procedures.