The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 requires businesses to have a way of fighting a small fire, for example, by using portable fire extinguishers.
How many fire extinguishers, and what types of extinguishers are normally determined by carrying out a fire risk assessment. However, as a general rule there should be one extinguisher for every 200 square meters of floor space with at least two on each floor.
Different types of fire extinguishers
There are different types of fire extinguishers for different classes of fire:
- Water (red): for class 'A' fires such as flammable solids such as wood, cloth and paper.
- Carbon Dioxide (black): for fires involving electrical equipment.
- Dry Powder (blue): for class 'A' fires - solids such as paper and wood, class 'B' fires - flammable liquids such as petrol and class 'C' fires - flammable gases such as propane and butane.
- Foam (cream): for class 'A' fires - paper, wood, plastic and class 'B' fires - flammable liquids such as paraffin, petrol and oil.
- Wet Chemical (yellow): for class 'F' fires - cooking fats and oil fires and class 'A' fires - flammable solids.
Siting of fire extinguishers
Fire extinguishers should be sited in prominent positions, ideally close to exits, so they can be easily found and encourage people to move away from the fire. Extinguishers for specific fire risks, for example wet chemical extinguishers, should be sited near to the fire risk but not so near as to put the operator in any unnecessary danger from the fire.
Fire extinguisher maintenance
To keep fire extinguishers in good working order, and make sure they will work when needed, they should be regularly inspected. Basic inspections should make sure fire extinguishers are in their designated place, the instructions on how to use it are facing outwards and clearly visible, there are no obvious signs of damage and that all the seals and pins in are in place. They should also have a scheduled, annual, maintenance programme, by a provider who is Fire Industry Association (FIA), British Approvals for Fire Equipment (BAFE) or Independent Fire Engineering and Distributors Association (IFEDA) accredited.