About Fire Extinguishers

UK fire-safety legislation (Regulatory Reform Order 2005) requires businesses to employ adequate fire protection measures within the business.

So the decision as to whether you have extinguishers or not is up to the ‘Responsible Person’ and usually determined from the findings of a mandatory fire risk assessment. However the government advice is that even a one room shop should provide at least one powder extinguisher.

So accepting that you should have extinguishers the poses the question, ‘How many do I need?’ There are specific requirements and the findings of a risk assessment should provide the answers but there are some simple guidelines: The extinguishers firstly should be appropriate to the potential fuels (e.g. having just a water extinguisher is no good if you have electrical equipment). The extinguishers should be positioned within the required travel distances (i.e. you should not travel more than 30m to find an extinguisher). BS5306 states that they should be positioned in prominent positions and recurring positions on each floor and that each floor should have extinguishers (i.e. you should not have to travel between floors to locate an extinguisher).

It is important to understand which extinguishers can fight which fuels. Here is a brief outline:

Water – solid fires, Foam – solids and flammable liquids, CO2 – electrical and flammable liquids, Powder – solids, liquids and gasses, Wet Chemical – cooking oils and fats, solids.

It would seem to make sense to leave it to an extinguisher company to specify your requirements but this can sometimes lead to over specifying equipment. The best method is to have a fire risk assessment carried out and then get a quotation based upon the findings.

Extinguishers must be serviced annually and there are very specific rules on intervals, type of service and lifespan of extinguishers. Many companies are happy for you to have little understanding of these rules and often extinguishers can be changed before they need to be. Most extinguishers have a twenty-year lifespan. Each year a basic service is required annually and all ‘stored-pressure extinguishers (essentially everything except CO2) require an extended service every fifth year. An extended service involves emptying and stripping the extinguisher checking the internal state of the unit the refilling and re-gassing. Therefore on five, ten and fifteen year periods the annual fee will increase. Every other year the price should remain constant.

For further more detailed advice click and download our free pdf guide to extinguishers for UK businesses.

The Fire Safety Order requires that whoever is authorised to use your extinguishers must be trained in their use. Training should take place on induction to the company and at regular refresher intervals.

However the choice of just who will be authorised to use the extinguishers is up to you and is usually determined by the findings of your fire risk assessment. The best method of training is hands-on practical demonstration but this can be costly and difficult to implement for small numbers (e.g. just one member of staff such as a new starter). There are alternative methods of learning such as online or DVD but they must encompass a ‘test of understanding’. For a more detailed guide just click to download our free PDF guide to extinguisher training.

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