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.
standard, published July 2009, fully replaces BS 5306-3:2003,
which is withdrawn.
This document is broken down into the following sections:
Throughout, references to the pertinent parts of the British Standards and/or
other legislation have been included as
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)
Please see the corresponding notes on ‘Responsible Person’ on our
Fire Safety Order and
Fire (Scotland) Act
Most commonly, the responsible person will be the employer, landlord,
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.
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, ongoing 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
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
Other than those extinguishers for which the standard provides no maintenance
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:
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.
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 its 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
- 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.
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
- 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 these components 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
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
BS 5306-3:2009 details19
requirements for the
process by which extinguishers should be recharged following their
complete or partial discharge.
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.
BS 5306-3:2009 requires21 that
extinguishers that are found to be defective are to be categorised and
“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.
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
It goes on to give examples of indicative conditions24:
- corrosion, wear or damage to threads of any pressure retaining
- 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 plastics lining;
- corrosion of the metal body under a zinc or tin/lead lining.
Further reasons include the following (unless rectified by fitting of
- overpainting or application of any other coating, film or
colouring to any plastics component that could be subject to
- UV degradation of plastics components;
- illegible marking or operating instructions;
- instructions not in English.
Additionally, all extinguishers for which the standard provides no maintenance
should also be condemned4.
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.
- 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,
- Extinguishers should be replaced at 20 years
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 its life, and is therefore economically unviable (the cost of
discharge testing or refurbishing is usually a large proportion of the cost of
- 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, its 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
- As per BS 5306-3:2009, clause 6.1, Table 1,
- As per BS 5306-3:2009, Annex D (normative),
table D.2, actions numbers 11 and 17.
- As per BS 5306-3:2009, Annex D (normative),
table D.2, action number 13.
- As per BS 5306-3:2009, clause 126.96.36.199 (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.