All fire extinguishers have a finite shelf life and so when they come to the end of their intended life span they need to be replaced with new ones. The big question at this point is what to do with the old ones? Maybe you only have a couple that need to be disposed of? But in many cases a company may have hundreds of extinguishers that they have to get rid of.
Should you simply through them in the bin or a skip? No is the simple answer.
You must remember that a fire extinguisher is a precision piece of equipment and there are several reasons why they need to be disposed of in the correct manner.
Fire extinguishers are normally under high pressure and so if any of the components are removed this can cause a dangerous and life threatening incident to occur. In order to safely dismantle an extinguisher you need the correct training as many people in the past have been badly injured or killed while attempting this. If done incorrectly they can explode or fire out the valve as an example at tremendous speed. It would be like being shot at close range, so just don’t even attempt this. Ever.
So how exactly can you dispose of them? Well there are several options available to you and we will cover these now.
An old extinguisher that is still in working order could be used as a training tool for staff. Of course this should only be done with CO2 or Plain Water extinguishers as they are safe to use and not particularly messy. It is not allowed to dispose of other fire fighting extinguishing agents down a drain. As an example, powder needs to be disposed of into sealed bags and sent to a landfill. Foam is not environmentally friendly and must never be deliberately emptied into the drains as this will cause major damage.
If you only have a few extinguishers to get rid of then you can take them to your local council recycling site and they will take them from you. If you happen to have larger quantities of units to be disposed of then you will need to get a professional firm in to do this. As a business owner you are legally obliged to make sure you dispose of waste materials in a safe and correct manner. This means that when it comes to getting rid of fire extinguishers you will need to employ a form that has the correct license to transport controlled waste. Check with your service company as not all firms have this.
You will be the one legally liable if an accident occurs. Can you afford the court case and fines? It could result in a lengthy prison term as laws applying to fire regulations are extremely tight.
If you speak with the firm that maintains your fire extinguishers they may very well have an agreement with a manufacturer or have access to the facilities to refurbish and refill the old extinguishers. Due to the metals used in extinguishers the vast majority of old parts can be recycled which is great news for the environment. It’s always good to score a few extra carbon footprint karma points. The parts that are generally available to be recycled include valves, headcaps, tubes and the cylinders.
If the cylinder body is undamaged this can be pressure tested and reused for future models. If their body is damaged then they are normally cut in half or pierced to prevent accidental reuse.
The metals can then be smelted down and reused again.
So remember, use good quality fire extinguishers to save your employees as well as yourself, and then recycle or dispose of properly and help save the planet.