Before legislation people serviced Fire Safety Equipment as they wished resulting in failed equipment, dangerous equipment, loss of property, and loss of life. Government implemented The Occupational Health and Safety Act, Act 85 of 1993 (OHS Act) as a pro-active attempt to prevent and avoid work related injuries and illness. The OHS Act governs the health and safety for the diverse industry of South Africa. It regulates and control health and safety in all organisations, from a normal office environment to more hazardous environments like industrial plants and construction sites. The aim of the OHS Act is to provide for the safety and health of persons at work and in connection with the use of plant and machinery. It further provides for the protection of people other than people at work from hazards arising out of or in connection with the activities from people at work.
The Minister of Labour has, under section 43 of the OHS Act, after consultation with the Advisory Council for Occupational Health and Safety and the Minister of Finance, made the Pressure Equipment Regulations (PER). These Regulations apply to the design, manufacture, operation, repair, modification, maintenance, inspection and testing of pressure equipment with a design pressure equal to or greater than 50 kPa, in terms of the relevant health and safety standard incorporated into these Regulations under section 44 of the Act.
Subsection 19 deals with fire extinguishers and states the following:
(1) No user shall use, require or permit the use of a fire extinguisher unless designed, constructed, filled, recharged, reconditioned, modified, repaired, inspected or tested in accordance with the relevant safety standard incorporated into these Regulations under section 44 of the Act.
(2) No person shall fill, recharge, recondition, modify, repair, inspect or test any fire extinguisher unless such person is an authorised person employed by a permit holder: Provided that a permit is issued by an organisation approved by the chief inspector.
The Department of Labour (DOL) as the custodian of the OHS act and its Regulations have appointed bodies to perform certain tasks.
The Mandate of the SABS is to develop, promote and maintain South African National Standards (SANS). The following standards issued by the SABS are applicable when we look at the maintenance of fire-fighting equipment.
SANS 10400 provides deemed-to-satisfy requirements for compliance with part T (Fire Protection) of the National Building Regulations and states the following:
4.32.1 Any fire-fighting equipment, installations and fire protection systems in any building shall be so installed and maintained as to be ready for their purpose at all times.
4.34.2 Any hose reel installed in such building shall comply with the requirements in SANS 543, shall be installed in accordance with SANS 10105-1 and SANS 10400-W, and shall be maintained in accordance with the requirements in SANS 1475-2.
4.37.3 Portable fire extinguishers installed in a building shall comply with the requirements in SANS 1910, and shall be installed, maintained and serviced by competent persons in accordance with SANS 1475-1 and SANS 10105-1.
SANS 1475 issued by the SABS specifically deals with:
Why may only a Competent Person (SAQCC Registered Technician) employed by a Permit holder service and maintain fire-fighting equipment?
Regulation 19 of The PER states that:
“No person shall fill, recharge, recondition, repair, inspect or test any fire extinguisher unless such person is an authorised person employed by a permit holder”
Furthermore SANS 1475 (Part 1 & 2) states that all staff members involved in the reconditioning of extinguishers, fire hose reels and above-ground hydrants shall have been trained and, where relevant, registered to ensure that each section of the work is carried out in accordance with the applicable part of SANS 1475
As mentioned previously The South African Qualification Certificating Committee (SAQCC) has been appointed to ensure that servicing and maintenance of fire protection equipment is conducted according to the specifications laid out in SANS 1475 and, more importantly, that technicians have the correct training, qualifications and experience.
How often should fire-fighting equipment be serviced and maintained?
SANS 1475 states that the service and maintenance of extinguishers, fire hose reels and above-ground hydrants shall be carried out annually with the additional requirement that powder, foam, water and water based extinguishers be pressure tested every 5 years and CO2 extinguishers every 10 years.