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A very quick question - what are peoples thoughts / experiences on P50's being installed in buildings???  

Have had two very different views provided to me this week - one for (guy made it sound like everyone needs a P50 in their life they are so good!) and one strongly against (due to not meeting BS5306)...

Both parties sell their respective extinguishers so I don't want to be swayed by the sales talk and would really appreciate peoples honest opinions...good and bad! 🙂

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Those against them are doing so for purely financial reasons as they loose the annual service fees and 5 yearly replacement income.

I shall let London Fire Brigade give an impartial (& enforcers) view:
"A recent innovation is the 20 year life cycle extinguisher that needs to be refilled/ refurbished after 10 years by the manufacturer. These extinguishers enable a business or organisation to carry out their own maintenance with a simple visual inspection that is required at least annually. Depending on the type and location of the extinguisher, it may be appropriate to perform a visual inspection at shorter intervals (e.g. monthly). These extinguishers are either dry powder or foam within a Kevlar lined container and covered with a composite outer casing. Due to the 10 year operational corrosion guarantee they do not require a traditional service contract. These extinguisher types meet the requirements of the Order and are therefore acceptable to the Commissioner. The extinguishers meet the di-electric test as detailed in British Standard 3 – 7 (BS EN 3- 7) and have received various third party approvals. They are suitable for a number of locations within a premises and come in various sizes. The FRA will provide detailed information with regard to their location and placement"

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Hi Meady

Certainly a good question to start a lively discussion with! 

Safelincs is, as you are probably aware, a strong supporter of the P50 service-free extinguishers (despite Safelincs also offering nationwide extinguisher servicing for traditional extinguishers). We were amongst the early adopters when these were launched in 2012. We see them as a way for customers to reduce maintenance costs and for the environmental impact of extinguisher provision to be reduced: The P50's chemicals only need replacing after ten years instead of the normal 5 years and there is no maintenance traffic clogging up our highways. 

Here a quick overview for newcomers: The P50 is a kitemarked portable stored-pressure extinguisher manufactured in the UK and is made from various non-corroding components, such as an inner plastic pressure cylinder encased in spun aramid fibre (similar to Kevlar). It does not corrode, the lining cannot become detached and start attacking the extinguisher's chemicals and the cylinder can be heavily deformed without losing pressure. It also features duplicate magnetic pressure gauges. Because of these features the traditional servicing activities (check for pressure loss with a gauge pump, check for dints, internal and external corrosion, dropped inner linings etc) are not required. Instead, the customer visually inspects the extinguishers (check the gauges show green, double check one gauge with a magnet, visually check the hose and body) and records the inspection on the extinguisher itself and in the customer's logbook. When a customer orders P50s, Safelincs carries out a site survey (all our engineers are BAFE approved), installs the required number of extinguishers and trains staff in the visual inspection process. This training is also certified by us. However, as there is no engineer's visit for the next 9 years, the extinguisher is classified as 'service-free'.

I had the great pleasure of sitting in one of the industry's working groups that cover extinguisher servicing standards, including the various parts of BS5306. Some of the key parts of the standard deal with the servicing of extinguishers. The industry has still not managed to include the P50 and its specific customer-driven visual maintenance regime or refill cycle into the standards. This might well be linked to the fact that many of the organisations that feed into the relevant BSI standard-writing committee are extinguisher servicing companies. Many see the P50 as a threat, as it can reduce their servicing income. 

P50s can now be found everywhere: Insurance offices, supermarkets, universities, colleges, churches, all Scottish courts, schools, public bodies and even refineries. They are endorsed by many bodies such as the Boat Safety Scheme, London Fire Brigade as well as insurances such as the NFU, the Ecclesiastical Insurance Group and others.

Harry Dewick-Eisele

Managing Director

Safelincs Ltd

 

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I remember the public comments on BS5306-3 (& 😎 and I added a specific section on user serviced equipment for them to consider as well as in part 8 an attempt to regularise the interpretation of the di-electric test in line with Ireland and the rest of mainland Europe but to no avail of course.

There are lots of useful innovations in first aid fire fighting equipment, Safelincs supplying two out of the three main ones (Water Mist & the P50 range), that few traditional extinguisher companies will deal with for no practical fire safety reason or any good reason other than it reduces extinguisher numbers and/or servicing.

I use all three current innovations in different client's premises based on risk and benefits alone.

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We have recently begun to use P50 foam on small remote premises (offices and small lock up warehouses). For our larger offices and sites we remain locked into traditional extinguishers

The electrical fire risk at our remote sites is low, so IMO a P50 would suffice alone. But this poses a staff training dilemma as we would need to add another layer of possible confusion. "Never use foam on electrical fires - except P50s". To be honest, we haven't fully resolved that issue. So to keep the training easy, we supply P50s and CO2 and do not advise P50s on electrics.

I am a huge supporter of innovation but I have had my fingers burned when applying new technology in the past. On my recommendation, we installed video smoke detection to one site. It has never been fully commissioned as it creates so many unwanted fire signals. We also used a hypoxic fire prevention system elsewhere, only to discover the power consumption was far higher than we were promised. Not exactly the greenest system!

So you can see that albeit a fan of P50s, I am also a little nervous to install them at our biggest biggest building. With around 400 units being required here (and 2000 across the estate), I am anxious that some kind of product recall or change of mind by enforcement agencies would be very expensive for my employer and very problematic for me!!!!

I will hold off for another year of so and see how our P50s in the remote sites fare and by then, I will perhaps talk to Britannia or Safelincs to get some reassurances before changing our policy.

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Hi Hayfever

Thank you for sharing your experiences. 

Assuming that there is no application with more than 1,000 Volt and no special risks present (eg deep fat fryers, which require wet chemicals) the message should be 'use P50 extinguisher provided on all risks but do not get closer than 1m' , as the P50 foams are tested for electrical safety with 35,000 Volt at 1m distance (the difference between 35,000 and 1,000 Volt being the safety margin!). If you offer CO2 on top of P50 (or in fact any) foam, there is a risk that the users are not sure which extinguisher to use on which type of fire.

Not knowing what type of estate you are representing makes is difficult to narrow the reference list down, however, P50s have now been installed for over 8 years and are installed at universities, supermarket chains, refineries, large farm groups, warehouses, insurance offices, schools, all Scottish Courts and many other type of businesses and Housing projects. If you want to contact me directly I am happy to put you in contact with customers that are relevant to you.

With larger estates we have in the past offered a gradual change over: One site is converted completely to P50 and any in-date traditional extinguishers are taken out and stored and then moved to other sites of your estate (still with traditional extinguishers) that require replacements. That way you have fully converted sites without a confusing multitude of extinguishers while you are not destroying the residual value in your traditional extinguisher stock.

Harry

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You are defeating the point of having P50's if still supplying CO2 as well - you are still needing extra training on which type to use and still need an external service company.

It's not new technology.


The use of di-electric tested extinguishers on electrical fires dates back to at least 1977 in British Standards for extinguisher manufacture (when BS5423 was first published and the AFFF Spray extinguisher was invented by Thomas Glover)  and it isn't a new concept. If your existing foam extinguishers have passed the test (i.e. not printed 'do not use on electrical fires) they are just as safe on electrical fires as the P50 as they have both gone through the exact same test, it's just an industry influenced move not to put this on most extinguishers. In Europe the electrical safety of spray water & foam extinguishers has been a part of standards for almost as long.

British Rail used foam spray extinguishers that had passed the 35kV test across their entire estate and rolling stock in the late 80's to replace both water extinguishers for Class A fires and Halon extinguishers for electrical fires with only CO2 being retained in extremely small numbers for kitchens and the main HV electrical room of a building.

 

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I have to say, I am totally convinced and very tempted to push P50s in perhaps a bigger building on our estate to show those who control the pursestrings how savings and compliance can be achieved. But its complicated and I need to choose the right time

I was travelling through an airport with one of my directors about 18 months ago and pointed out P50s were in use and what they mean for us. I have also mentioned that the London Fire Brigade and other enforcement agencies are on board. But we have a crusty old (even crustier and older than me) H&S manager who is oppose to any change and has scared the hell out of the H&S board by saying they. are illegal . 

He will be retiring at the end of the summer and I will try again. I will definitely be contacting you Harry for your help at that time, as I am determined to see this change through. 

Thank you to both of you for your guidance 

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