There is no doubt that the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 is making an impact in raising the fire safety standards in many businesses that may have previously given the issue a low priority. High profile prosecutions and an increasingly aggressive enforcement policy by fire safety inspectors are forcing business owners and managers into compliance.
For many small businesses compliance usually means installing appropriate fire extinguishers and fire safety signage but this is not a fit-and-forget solution.
The RRO requires that all fire safety equipment is “maintained in an efficient state, in efficient working order and in good repair”. Those that see the cost of maintenance as a deterrent should be mindful that failure to comply with the RRO can incur punitive fines but more importantly should an extinguisher fail to operate due to lack of maintenance you can be liable for any injuries resulting and your insurers may mitigate or even dismiss any claim for restoration of buildings and contents.
As a general rule a fire extinguisher should be serviced annually including checks on gauges, hoses, valves and operating mechanisms and signs of corrosion or fatigue. What is termed an “Extended Test” should be conducted every 5 years which involves a controlled discharge test. For organisations that have only a few extinguishers it may be cheaper to simply replace the extinguishers every 5 years so always get a quote for the two options.
The Fire Safety Inspectors will also defer to the British Standard Code of Practice 5306 Part 3 which states that maintenance of all your fire extinguishers is conducted by a ‘competent person’.
A competent person is defined as “having the necessary training and experience, with access to the relevant tools, equipment and information, manuals and knowledge of any special procedures recommended by the manufacturer of the portable fire extinguisher, to carry out the relevant maintenance procedures”. Only larger companies and organisations can afford the luxury of a fully-trained service engineer in-house so you should employ an external BAFE certified service and maintenance contractor. You can search for a local BAFE registered contractor at www.bafe.org.uk