26 November 2015
“Is it a year since you were last here?” A familiar response from a business to a fire extinguisher technician who has arrived to complete the annual maintenance of the portable fire extinguishers.
This is mainly seen as a cost that businesses would like to avoid, especially when businesses are struggling to emerge from the long term problems we have had in the economy. However, the implications of not having a trained technician visiting business premises, on an annual basis as a minimum, should be considered, as should the additional benefits gained from the technician during their visit.
Provided the process of selection of the maintenance contractor is guided by the correct criteria: BAFE approved, third party assessed, carrying all the right insurances and accreditations, the technician is worth their weight in gold for your business! In most instances, this technician may be just contracted to service the portable fire equipment but the reality is, a business can get considerably much, much more than this from the technician.
Obviously the technician’s first duty is to carry out the work they are employed for, primarily the service of the portable extinguishers, to the current British Standard BS 5306-3. Whilst on the way around the building, other elements are considered, such as they will ensure that the equipment in place is fit for the risk it is provided for, as things change inside the work place. This could include relocating and fitting any equipment that has been moved around. New machinery, changes in processes, new products being used or manufactured, an added kitchen or temporary Portakabin, all need evaluation to consider whether the fire risk level has changed, increased or even decreased. Departments also move inside buildings and the change in fire risk is often not even considered.
In all premises just ensuring fire equipment is located correctly, not obstructed and that there are no signs of tampering or discharge can justify a regular visit alone. The fire extinguisher technician is fully trained to recognise all of these areas and will advise on the movement of equipment or, change of equipment if required, using BS 5306-8 as the reference document.
The technician will also inform the staff on the type of portable equipment and give instruction on how to safely use the extinguishers and what to use them on.
Most fire protection companies now train their technicians in the recognition and installation of escape and warning signs, therefore whilst the technician is on the premises, they will make sure that all the firefighting equipment, doors, alarms and extinguishers etc. are identified to meet the required standard. Evacuation from the building in the event of a problem is crucial and the means of escape has to be clearly signed. Only using signs that conform to the correct standards, the engineer will ensure that the means of escape is clear and visible for the site, detailing non-compliant signs and offering the correct solution when necessary.
We spoke earlier about instructions of how to use portable equipment. This is not classed as training, however the engineer will check to see if a more in depth training package is required and can advise on this with the responsible person on site.
Once the engineer has completed the service, there are a couple of things left for him to do. He will fill in the log book and issue certificates of maintenance ensuring that the business has documentation, if needed to show the enforcing authorities as proof, and that maintenance regimes are in place for fire protection equipment.
The technician may also be able to arrange for a fire risk assessor to attend site to carry out a full risk assessment in accordance with the requirements of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order. This will ensure businesses are complying with the law.
Many technicians have the ability to carry out fire door servicing, as they are already on site. Checking door closure rates, inspecting gaps, adjusting closers, recommending replacement furniture and intumescent strips when and where required. Probably something most businesses have never considered however one of the best and most important elements of fire protection devices a company has.
The portable fire extinguisher technician is trained and keeps up to date with all the current codes of practice therefore delivering a more detailed, clear and in depth service than just maintenance of fire extinguishers.
Following the relevant codes of practice, they will keep the responsible person up to date with any changes that occur from his last visit.
The lack of periodical visits may not affect some well managed premises but in my experience most premises would benefit with the regular visit from somebody looking at the fire safety systems and procedures in place.
Would you do without the fire extinguisher technician who delivers much more than a fire extinguisher service?