Below is a summary of good practice and the key points of the parts of BS
5306-3:2017 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 October 2017, fully replaces BS 5306-3:2009,
which is withdrawn.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 hazard 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 or duty
holder in Scotland, and is
the person defined by this term in legislative structures within UK
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 2017 revision of the standard sets out3
the necessary practice of commissioning of new fire extinguishers. These 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.
Note that in the previous version of this part of the standard, no
maintenance schedules were provided for extinguishers with a plastics
body shell which were to be condemned. Issues could thus arise for any
newer types of extinguishers with non-metal bodies made from plastics,
aramid fibres, etc. This new version now also covers newer extinguishers
with non-metal bodies which are treated broadly the same.6.
The maintenance cycle for
extinguishers should consist of the following key stages:
The responsible person (or their nominated
representative), should undertake a visual inspection at least
monthly7 (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 within
the green zone; and
- has seals/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 responsible person should record these results (e.g. in a fire
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 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 5306-3:2017 details19
requirements for the
process by which extinguishers should be recharged following their
complete or partial discharge, making reference to the standard
BS 5306-3:2017 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 5306-3:2017 requires21 that
extinguishers that are found to be defective are to be categorised and
“Condemned” or “Corrective Action Required”. 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 safe and
warning labels affixed were so required22.
BS 5306-3:2017 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 conditions, including24:
- 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;
- for metal-bodied extinguishers
- 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;
- further examples for any extinguisher with a non-metal
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;
- no instructions 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 5306-3:2017, clause 3.15.
- As per BS 5306-3:2017, clause 3.6 and Annex I.
- As per BS 5306-3:2017, clause 5.1 and Annex A.
- As per BS 5306-3:2017, clause 10.2.4.
- These include: soda acid extinguishers,
extinguishers with a riveted body, extinguishers with a non-metal body
manufactured prior to the year 2002, extinguishers that require inversion to
operate, and non‑refillable extinguishers that have reached their expiry
- See BS 5306-3:2009 clause 9.2.3 and BS 5306-3:2017, clause
10.2.4. For non metal bodied extinguishers, it is now only those
manufactured prior to the year 2002 that have no maintenance schedule
provided. Trademarks are the property of their respective owners - Kevlar
- As per BS 5306-3:2017, clause 11.2.
- As per BS 5306-3:2017, clause 6.3, 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 5306-3:2017, clause 6.3, Table 1,
- Extinguishers should be replaced at 20 years
because BS 5306-3:2017 clause 6.3, Table 1 would otherwise necessitate
an extended service or overhaul for the extinguisher which is already coming to
the end of its life. It is therefore often 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 also a legal requirement under the
Pressure Systems Safety Regulations 2000.
- Class D extinguishers are typically powder extinguishers
and typically treated thus in the British Standard. These details assume that the
extinguisher in question is not a primary-sealed extinguisher.
- Class F extinguishers are typically water-based
extinguishers and typically 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 5306-3:2017, clause 6.3, Table 1,
- As per BS 5306-3:2017, Annex B (normative),
table B.1, actions numbers 9 and 16.
- As per BS 5306-3:2017, Annex B (normative),
table B.1, action number 12.
- As per BS 5306-3:2017, clause 11.1 (e).
- As per BS 5306-3:2017, clause 8.
- As per BS 5306-3:2017, clauses 8 and 9.
- As per BS 5306-3:2017, clause 10.1.
- As per BS 5306-3:2017, clauses 10.2.1 and 10.3.
- As per BS 5306-3:2017, clause 10.2.1.
- As per BS 5306-3:2017, clause 10.2.2.