How long does a fire extinguisher last before it needs to be replaced?

In the UK, the lifespan of a fire extinguisher depends on its type, manufacturer guidelines, and how well it is maintained. Generally, fire extinguishers have a lifespan of between 5 to 20 years. However, they require regular maintenance and inspections to ensure they remain in good working order throughout this time. Here are some key points regarding the lifespan and replacement of fire extinguishers:

  • Manufacturer’s Guidelines: Always refer to the manufacturer’s instructions regarding the lifespan and maintenance of the extinguisher. Different models and types may have different expected lifespans.
  • Regular Inspections: Fire extinguishers should be inspected regularly, typically on a monthly basis, to check for signs of damage, corrosion, leakage, or a drop in pressure (if they have a pressure gauge).
  • Annual Maintenance: A more thorough check should be performed by a qualified professional at least once a year. This maintenance checks for operational functionality and any internal or external damage.
  • Extended Servicing: Water, foam, wet chemical, and powder extinguishers usually require an extended service every five years, which includes a discharge test and refill. CO2 extinguishers typically require a hydrostatic pressure test every ten years.
  • Replacement After Use: A fire extinguisher must be recharged or replaced after any use, even if only partially discharged.
  • Signs of Wear and Damage: If an extinguisher shows signs of wear, such as rust, damage, or if the seal is broken, it should be replaced regardless of age.
  • Disposal: Outdated, damaged, or expired fire extinguishers must be disposed of safely and in accordance with local regulations. They should not simply be thrown in the trash.
  • Legislation and Standards: Always ensure that fire extinguishers comply with current UK legislation and standards, such as BS EN3 for the manufacture and performance of extinguishers and BS 5306 for the commissioning and maintenance.

Due to these factors, there is no one-size-fits-all answer for when a fire extinguisher should be replaced. It depends on the individual extinguisher’s condition, its maintenance history, and regulatory compliance. Always ensure that fire safety equipment is maintained in accordance with the latest standards and manufacturer recommendations to ensure they are effective when needed.

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