I was chatting with a friend recently about fire extinguisher servicing for businesses. Dave had just changed to a cheaper supplier and saved himself a few pounds every month. He’d been quite chirpy about this cost cutting move.
But then he told me how he got a bit of a wake up call.
The guy who had previously serviced Dave’s extinguishers was still servicing his fire alarm. During that visit, the guy knocked on Dave’s door to talk about the extinguisher in the corridor outside his office.
It’s all about the ‘O’ Rings
The red loop in this picture is an O-ring.
O-rings on any appliance help form a seal to ensure the equipment is ready for use.
O-rings are used where the hose of a fire extinguisher meets the head cap. Their presence means that the extinguishing agent flows down the hose and cannot squirt out of the threaded joint.
With no O-ring or a faulty O-ring, the extinguisher could be useless – just when you need it most.
Sadly, after a year, O-rings begin to perish.
That’s why replacing the O-ring during every service is recommended in BS5306 and on most training courses.
Most fire extinguisher servicing companies will use regular black O-rings.
However, some servicing companies will use colour coded O-rings – as well as tamper seals and gauge dots. They use a different colour for every year and keep a record of what colour was used when.
- it shows the engineer has completed that part of the service offering;
- it allows the customer to see that this part of the service has been completed; and
- it allows the customer to show that this piece of equipment was regularly serviced if there was ever a problem
This simple little piece of added value is an audit trail that can cover the backs of both companies.
In this case, the red O-ring meant that it was highly likely the O-ring that had been put in place by the old engineer the previous year.
So it had not been changed at the most recent service by the new supplier.
That certainly put some question marks into my friend’s mind.
You don’t know what you don’t know about fire extinguisher servicing
When you buy on price, the chances are that cuts are being made during the service you will get. The servicing company has to find the money for their margin somewhere.
Not changing the O-rings is just one example of this.
You should insist on colour-coded O-rings, tamper seals and gauge dots. These are visible signs that allow the business owner to know what has been done.
But what is your supplier NOT doing that you can’t see?
- Are they making up the weight of the extinguishers?
- Are they checking for damage/corrosion?
- Are they pulling pins to ensure the handles are moving freely?
- Are they checking the gauges to ensure they’re still working?
Penny wise, pound stupid
Sadly, stories from around the industry reveal that this type of cost cutting is common. Even if you use an accredited company. When times are tight, some businesses will take the easy option.
Whether that’s changing to a cheaper fire extinguisher maintenance supplier.
Or undercutting an existing incumbent and then providing a lesser service.
And, if the worst should happen, it is you and your business that will carry the can. Not complying with your Fire Risk Assessment can leave you facing prosecution with large fines or even a prison sentence.
It’s a sobering thought.
With thanks to ProFire Services for their image of an O-ring