Fire Extinguisher Guidance

Fire Extinguisher Guidance
General Information
  • Always make sure you are aware of and follow your company’s fire safety procedure.
  • Always raise the Fire Alarm before attempting to extinguish the fire, and make sure you have a clear exit route.
  • If you are a nominated person to perform fire safety procedures for your company (Health and Safety Officer/Fire Warden), make sure you have received sufficient training to be confident in your ability to implement fire measures.
  • If in doubt or possible danger, evacuate the building and ensure the Fire and Rescue Service has been notified.
Training in the use of fire extinguishers

In the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (fire safety legislation) it states that the premises must be equipped with appropriate fire-fighting equipment where appropriate. With this, the person appointed responsible for fire safety must ensure that peoples training and equipment available to them are adequate.

In BS 5306-8 (Clause 4.5) it states The competent person should bring to the attention of the responsible person the legal requirement for training. Every opportunity should be taken to instruct personnel in the use of extinguishers, and to demonstrate their performance.

Extinguishers for different fire classifications will have different training requirements.

Make sure your nominated staff are trained and confident to use this equipment in the event of a fire (if safe to do so).

Fire Classifications

Fires have different classifications as different extinguishing medium (water, carbon dioxide etc) react differently to types of fire and only the appropriate extinguisher should be used to attempt to extinguish a fire.

  • Class A - Freely burning materials (paper, wood etc)
  • Class B - Flammable liquids
  • Class C - Flammable gases
  • Class D - Flammable metals
  • Electrical* - Electrical equipment**
  • Class F - Cooking oils and fats

*BS5306-8 (Clause 7.1) states that for fires involving electrical equipment there is no recognized classification for this additional type of fire. Electricity in itself does not burn but can cause fires in class A, B, C, D and F materials.

**BS5306-8 (Clause 9.1) states for fires involving electrical equipment (see also 5.4.2), it is expected that the first action will be to cut off the source of power to the electrical equipment, if this can be done in safety. It is unlikely that the electrical equipment itself will provide the major fuel source. The provision of extinguishers should therefore be decided on the basis of the other fire hazards in the area.

Clause 9.3 Distribution of extinguishers for fires involving live electrical equipment Extinguishers of a type marked as suitable for use on fires in live electrical equipment should be sited near any electrical equipment (see also 5.4.2) [up to but not exceeding 10m travel distance – Clause 9.4].

Clause 5.4.2 Conductivity Only non-conductive extinguishing media, such as carbon dioxide, powder or other clean agent, should be specified for use on electrical equipment.

Which Extinguisher to Use

Extinguishers have specific colour coding which enables you to recognise what extinguishing medium is inside quickly. Water extinguishers are red with all others being red but with a colour indicator (such as a band or label). These should also be clearly labelled with appropriate signage. The colours of these different types of extinguisher are indicated in the table below:

fire extinguisher chart

1. Water with additive extinguishers may have a higher fire extinguishing rating than standard water extinguishers. This is due to the additive in the water giving it a higher saturation level making it act ‘wetter’ which helps to extinguish the fire.

2. Colour coding change to class D Powder extinguishers (for metal fires) introduced with BS 5306-10:2019, published 31/10/2020, and supersedes BS 7863:2009.

3. Wet Chemical extinguishers may also be suitable for Class B fires. Generally, all wet chemical extinguishers will carry a Class A and Class F fire rating, but not all carry a Class B fire rating. It is important to check this with your provider. BS 5306-8 only states that Class F are for “Fires involving cooking media (vegetable or animal oils and fats) in cooking appliances.” (Clause 8.6).

Purchasing, Commissioning and Installation

In the guidance documents provided for fire safety legislation (England and Wales/Scotland/Northern Ireland) the recommendation is that part of an employers’ measures for protecting their staff and others from fire is to install independently tested and certificated fire extinguishers.

BS 5306-8 notes that all workplaces will require the provision of a minimum of two water based (Class A) extinguishers with a combined minimum total fire rating of 26A per story or level up to 400mtr2 as primary protection (Clause 8.2.1).

In addition, all other classes of risks such as electrical equipment and flammable liquids need to be separately addressed and the relevant extinguishers provided. A Fire Risk Assessment will identify all requirements/actions needed. A quality fire extinguisher provider will also be able to identify what is required but would be best to work with the person performing the fire risk assessment to ensure this mitigates risk as best as possible.

Both the Home Office and the Fire & Rescue Services recommend extinguishers approved to the European Standard BS EN3 and compliant with BS 5306-10 (formerly BS 7863) colour coding code of practice.

Third Party Certificated BAFE SP101 Registered Companies provide extinguishers to these standards and install to BS 5306-8 and commission (detailed checks made on-site) to BS 5306-3.

Commissioning

BS 5306-3 (Clause 5.1) states All extinguishers should be subject to commissioning on initial positioning. The commissioning of an extinguisher should be carried out by a competent person. Upon removal from its packaging and transit protection, and immediately prior to placing in its designated place, the extinguisher should undergo the sequence of commissioning service actions taking into account the safety precautions. Upon completion of the above procedures the extinguisher should then be installed and positioned in accordance with BS 5306-8.

Siting/Positioning of Extinguishers
  • Fire Extinguishers should be located in conspicuous positions, available at all times for immediate use.
  • Extinguishers should be securely hung on wall brackets with the carrying handle of larger heavier extinguishers 1 metre from the floor. For smaller extinguishers (not heavier than 4kg), the carrying handle should be mounted 1.5 metres from the floor.
  • Where this is impractical extinguishers should be located on suitable floor stands. In schools and similar locations, it is preferable to use recessed housing, suitable cabinets or extinguisher covers.
  • Extinguishers should generally be sited in such a way that it is not necessary to travel more than 30 metres from the site of a fire to reach an extinguisher (Class A risk). For flammable liquid, cooking oil/fat or electrical risks the travel distance should not exceed 10 metres (Class B and Class F risk).
  • To avoid confusion, all extinguishers installed in any one building or single occupancy should have the same method of operation and if intended for the same function should be similar in shape, appearance and colour. The position and type of fire extinguisher should be indicated by a sign.
  • Wherever possible, portable extinguishers should be grouped to form a fire point (an area with multiple exit options, extinguishers and a means to raise the alarm).
Maintenance

Extinguishers should be regularly checked by the nominated person to make sure that appliances are in their proper position and have not been tampered with. They should also be routinely inspected by a competent service technician to ensure they have not been discharged or lost pressure.

The UK servicing standard BS 5306-3 puts the responsibility on the user (i.e. the company) to use a competent person to perform the annual inspections, install, commission (skilled checks made to the extinguisher on-site), service and test discharge fire extinguishers. They should also replace extinguishers that are no longer usable with serviceable extinguishers.

BS 5306-8 (Clause 4.7) states The extinguishers referred to in this part of BS 5306 should be commissioned, inspected, tested and maintained by a competent person in accordance with BS 5306-3.

Logging Information

It is noted in BS 5306-3 (Clause 11.4) that a fire logbook should be kept by the person appointed for fire safety within a building for the purpose of recording all events that occur in respect of the extinguishers.

The Standard states The following information should be recorded in the fire logbook, which may be in electronic form: a) information to be completed by the responsible person:

1) the name(s) of the member(s) of the premises management to whom responsibility for the extinguishers is delegated; (meaning the appointed Responsible Person or Duty Holder)

2) brief details of maintenance arrangements; (Meaning last service – any previous issues/next scheduled service)

3) dates and types of all visual inspections by the responsible person and details of any issues so identified, information to be provided by the competent person along with a note if any corrective actions are required. (Meaning scheduled internal checks – is the extinguisher damaged/moved etc?)

4) dates and types of all maintenance (e.g. service visit or non routine attention). (Meaning a log of scheduled maintenance or attention required by a competent service provider).

Every effort is made to ensure that the information provided is accurate and up to date.

No legal responsibility is accepted for any errors or omissions.