Fire extinguishers require stringent maintenance to ensure they will work when needed, and possibly more importantly, that they are safe. Fire extinguishers are pressurised vessels that can explode when corroded or damaged, and have been know to cause serious injury and even death.

British Standard 5306-3:2000 covers the maintenance of portable fire extinguishers, and recommends that “regular visual inspections of all portable fire extinguishers be carried out by the user or user’s representative. The frequency of inspections by the user should be no less than monthly and, when circumstances require, inspections should be carried out more frequently”.

User inspections should include checks that each extinguisher:

  • Is located in the designated place;
  • Is unobstructed, visible and its operating instructions face outwards;
  • Has operating instructions which are clean and legible;
  • Is not obviously damaged;
  • Has a reading in the operable range or position of any pressure gauge or indicator fitted;
  • Has seals and tamper indicators which are not broken or missing.

Maintenance should be carried out by a competent person 12 months after the installation of a new extinguisher, and at 12 monthly intervals thereafter.

The following chart shows the basic types & frequency of maintenance:

Extinguisher typeBasic serviceExtended serviceOverhaul & recharge
Water and FoamAnnually5 yearlyN.A.
PowderAnnually5 yearlyN.A.
CO2Annually5 yearly10 yearly