Regular maintenance of the fire extinguisher by an expert guarantees proper and safe functioning at all times.
A fire extinguisher can be compared to the seat belt or airbag in a car. They are safety devices which, hopefully, you will never need. But if you do need it, it must work properly.
Even if the fire extinguisher is "just hanging on the wall", it is still subject to wear and tear that the layman usually cannot recognise. Just a few points:
- The extinguishing agent container of the fire extinguisher can corrode
- Plastic parts can become brittle and make triggering impossible
- Extinguishing agents age and lose their extinguishing power
- Pipes and ducts inside the extinguisher can become clogged
- Leakage of propellant gas
The examples listed can lead to the failure of the fire extinguisher, it can no longer fulfil its function. In order to detect such defects at an early stage and to remedy them if necessary, regular maintenance by a specialist is indispensable.
Is it compulsory to have fire extinguishers serviced?
A distinction must be made here between commercial and private use.
If the fire extinguisher is used in a private household, it does not have to be serviced regularly, the owner is free to decide. Irrespective of this, however, the arguments listed above also apply to these extinguishers.
The situation is different for commercial use.
Here, ordinances (ArbStV) and guidelines ASR A2.2) on occupational health and safety prescribe not only the provision of fire extinguishers but also their regular maintenance.
If fire extinguishers are required by official order, the same applies as for commercial use - e.g. in high-rise buildings.
At what intervals must fire extinguishers be serviced?
Fire extinguishers must be maintained by an expert every 2 years at the latest.
The intervals may be shorter if fire extinguishers are exposed to greater stress, e.g. due to external influences. This period is specified in the workplace directive ASR A2.2.
When is the next maintenance of the fire extinguisher?
If the fire extinguisher is brand new and does not have a maintenance certificate, the year of manufacture of the fire extinguisher is used as a basis; this is printed on the fire extinguisher. During maintenance, a so-called maintenance certificate is attached to the extinguisher by the service technician. This shows, by means of an inspection sticker, the last maintenance and thus also the next maintenance.
Important! If the fire extinguisher has been used, it is essential to have it refilled!
As soon as a fire extinguisher has been used, it must be refilled by an expert. This also applies if only a small amount of extinguishing agent has been taken out.
During use, the valves or hose lines become "contaminated". This contamination leads to a slow loss of pressure and the fire extinguisher is no longer functional.
Who is allowed to maintain fire extinguishers?
Even though fire extinguishers are technically simple products, the assessment of their safety and fire protection condition is a matter for a specialist. Only he can assess, based on basic training, whether a fire extinguisher can continue to be operated safely and whether the technical performance characteristics are being met. Sometimes fire extinguishers are under pressure (usually 15 bar, carbon dioxide extinguishers even up to 250 bar!). Improper handling can have serious consequences very quickly. Thus, fire extinguisher maintenance is absolutely not a do-it-yourself project!
In Germany, the specialist is called an expert according to DIN 14406 Part 4. This standard not only describes the type and scope of maintenance, but also regulates the requirements for the expert and his training.
The expert receives his training during a minimum of 3 months of in-company training under the supervision of an expert, followed by a specialised course in which further theoretical and practical skills are taught. After 9 months of practical experience, the expert finally attends a specialist seminar with the training "Person qualified to carry out inspections". After this, he or she is also allowed to carry out inspections in accordance with the Ordinance on Industrial Safety and Health (BetrSichV).
Ideally, the specialist training courses were conducted by a GRIF e.V. certified company. GRIF e.V. certification offers RAL quality-assured training according to the current state of the art.
Scope of fire extinguisher maintenance
DIN 14406 Part 4 describes the minimum scope of maintenance of a fire extinguisher. In addition, the manufacturers provide so-called maintenance instructions, which prescribe further activities or replacement of components if necessary.
The following points must be carried out at least every time the fire extinguisher is serviced:
- Inspect the fire extinguisher for general condition and cleanliness
- Checking the legibility, completeness and correctness of the labelling
- Checking the fittings, hoses and scurings
- Observance of the due date of inspection periods according to BetrSichV (German Ordinance on Industrial Safety and Health)
- Checking the protective coating (e.g. for signs of corrosion)
- Checking the plastic parts for breaks, deformation and cracks
- Checking the tripping and interrupting devices
- Checking the weight or volume of the extinguishing agent
- Checking threaded connections for mechanical damage and freedom of movement
- Checking the extinguishing agent for usability
- Checking for signs of corrosion
- Checking of seals
- In the case of rechargeable fire extinguishers, the pressure or weight of the propellant gas must also be checked
- Restore the fire extinguisher to functional readiness
- Check fire extinguisher mounting for fastening and damage (if accessible)
- Affix the inspection sticker to the fire extinguisher
- Documentation of the work carried out
What does the maintenance of the fire extinguisher cost?
It is very difficult to make a blanket statement, as various factors have an influence on the company's calculation. For example, the travelling time and also the number of fire extinguishers to be serviced at one location, i.e. set-up costs, play a considerable role. The hourly billing rate also varies greatly from region to region.
However, we can give you an indication of the costs involved:
For the maintenance according to the above points, an expert needs approx. 12-18 minutes (for carbon dioxide extinguishers and continuous pressure extinguishers where the internal inspection is not carried out, the time is reduced accordingly). In addition, there are times for documentation and other necessary ancillary activities.
This means that an expert can properly maintain about 4-5 fire extinguishers per hour. In addition, there are travel times, set-up costs, spare parts and documentation.
The statements made refer to the regulations in Germany. Different regulations may apply in other countries!