There are an ever increasing number of small businesses who are not sure what to do to protect themselves from danger. We’ve recently had a few calls where the client has asked to buy a fire extinguisher for their office …
Office Safety Which Fire Extinguisher Do You Need?
Ok, they are being practical, but having the correct type of Fire Extinguisher depends on what the risk is in your office. For example, it would be very dangerous to have a water based fire extinguisher for use in a server room as we all know that water and electrics do not mix very well.
“So why not find someone who can come to site and advise you on which extinguishers are right for your premises and where they should be located?”
Did you know they should not be placed on the wall over a certain height? Some people don’t. I’ve visited premises where I’ve thought about getting the fork lift truck driver to help me get the 9 Litre Water Extinguisher down off the wall because they have been placed high up so that it stops being knocked and damaged!
Each is designed to cope with a specific fire hazard, but some are combination and can be used for more than one type of fire.So which Fire Extinguisher do you need? There are five main types of fire extinguishers available and it’s vital you buy the correct type for the risks that exist in your workplace.
WATER (Red) fire extinguishers are used for Class A fires which involve common hazards such as wood, straw, paper and coal.
FOAM (Cream) fire extinguishers can be used for Class A fires, but are also suitable for use with a Class B fire (flammable liquids) so it can tackle petrol and paints.
CO2 or Carbon-Dioxide (Black) fire extinguishers can be used for electrical hazards and can also tackle flammable liquids under Class B risks.
POWDER (Blue) fire extinguishers are suitable for many different types of fire, so it is good for premises where there could be fires involving flammable liquids, gas or electrical fires as well as Class A fires.
WET CHEMICAL (Yellow) extinguishers are designed specifically for fires involving cooking oil and fat (such as chip pan or deep fryer incidents), but are also effective with Class A fires.
You should always buy Fire Extinguishers based on the most likely risks for your premises. For example, a chip shop would almost certainly want to have a wet chemical extinguisher on hand if cooking oil and fat are used.
It is also a good idea to have a fire blanket, not because a fire extinguisher can malfunction or there might be no-one available who knows how to use it, but because you can use it to protect yourself when trying to escape.
“But how many Extinguishers should I have?”
The number will depend on the size of your premises and whether yours is a low or high risk business. As a general rule, in a low risk workplace an employee should be within 30 metres of a fire extinguisher and it is best that they are sited close to potential fire risks and at room exit doors and stairways.
An employee should be able to get hold of an extinguisher quickly so they should be wall mounted or placed on a stand with an identification sign above so that they can be seen clearly.
All staff should be made aware of where the extinguishers are and they should be trained on how to use them. The business owner (or person responsible) should carry out a simple monthly visual check in case they have been stolen or tampered with.
Most types of extinguisher need to be discharged and refilled at certain intervals, this should only be carried out by a competent trained engineer, usually serviced each year.
As a business owner you should also invest in and fit smoke detectors as more people are killed by smoke rather than the fire itself. Around 80% of fires are put out using a portable fire extinguisher and it is thought they save at least 24 lives and prevent more than 1,500 fire-related injuries in the UK each year.
Of course, staff should never try to fight a fire if it would put their own safety at risk, but if it is a small fire that can be easily dealt with, an extinguisher could prevent the fire spreading and therefore putting more people at risk.
“It might be tempting to think that fires at work are unusual, but figures show there are around 25,000 incidents in England and Wales per year!”
Regulations relating to fire safety in the UK where consolidated when the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order came into effect. It brought together all fire safety legislation into one single order and made business owners and managers responsible for carrying out a fire safety risk assessment and implementing, then maintaining, a fire management plan.
All businesses, however large or small, must carry out a fire risk assessment and decide on fire detection, alerts and the equipment needed, although in a very small workplace, such as a shop or two person office, the fire warning system could be as simple as someone shouting “Fire!“
The Order does not specify minimum fire safety measures, but remember that different industries may be covered by other legislation covering minimum provision.
You could be prosecuted if you fail to protect your staff and an insurance company could refuse to pay for damages if it could have been prevented by proper safety measures or equipment.
Employers who would like help in carrying out a risk assessment or have any doubts about their fire policy – such as the correct number of extinguishers to buy – should always seek professional advice.
You can call FTS Safety Solutions on 0330 660 0264 or click here to send us an email enquiry and we’ll get right back to you.
Until next time …