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UK Fire Extinguisher Regulations

Updated: Apr 28

red fire extinguisher

The main regulation that governs fire safety in the UK is the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. The regulation was created to improve fire safety standards and ensure anybody responsible for a building meets these standards.


 

In this Article:


 

Fire Extinguishers in the Workplace


Fire extinguishers are common in many workplaces and are a vital part of many buildings fire safety measures. The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 states that wherever there is a risk of fire there should be some safety measures put in place to reduce the risk. For most locations a fire extinguisher is the most feasible solution to meet the safety standards.


The type of fire extinguisher required will depend on the risk present and other factors such as what flammable material may be present in the area around the fire.


Below is a list of the most commonly used fire extinguishers and what class of fire they are effective in tackling:

Type of Fire Extinguisher

Colour Code

Used to Extinguish

Water Extinguisher

Red with a White label

Solid Combustible Materials

Foam Extinguisher

Red with a Cream Label

Flammable Liquids

CO2 Extinguisher

Red with a Black Label

Electrical Fires & Flammable Liquids

Dry Powder Extinguisher

Red with a Blue Label

Solid Combustibles, Liquids and Gasses

Wet Chemical Extinguisher

Red with a Bright Yellow Label

Fat & Cooking Oils


 

high rise residential building

Fire Extinguishers in Houses of Multiple Occupancy (HMOs).


Although they are not specifically a legal requirement in HMOs, fire extinguishers are commonly recommended when fire risk assessment has been carried out. Most HMOs provide fire extinguishers in the Kitchen as this is the room with the highest chance of a fire occurring, although there could be additional risk of fire from electrical and plumbing installations.


When choosing a fire extinguisher for use in a HMO it is important that the right type of extinguisher is used. The fire extinguisher chosen should be appropriate to deal with the type of fire most likely to start.


Some other common fire safety equipment used in HMOs might include:


  • Fire Blankets

  • Alarms

  • Sprinkler Systems


Equipment should be put in place as part of a system that reduces the risk of fire and complies with the Fire Safety Order 2005. This equipment reduces the risk of fire starting, assists in extinguishing fire and aids in the event of emergency evacuation.

The Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022

The fire safety regulations were further amended in 2022 in response to the Grenfell Tower tragedy that claimed the lives of 72 people.


This regulation provides improved requirements from high-rise buildings to improve the safety of its occupants in the event of a fire. Changes to locations and requirements to fire exits were made as well as clear instruction on the types of building materials that can be used in the construction of high-rise buildings.


 

Fire Extinguishers in Vehicles


Fire extinguishers are commonly kept in public transport vehicles, commercial vehicles and some types of private vehicles. The type of extinguisher used varies slightly depending on the vehicle as some vehicles may have different ignition sources and combustible materials.


Fire Extinguishers Used in Cars

Dry powder extinguishers are the recommended as the most effective extinguisher in putting out a car fire. These are used due to their effectiveness in tackling liquid fires which may be caused by fuels like diesel and petrol. Dry powder extinguishers are particularly effective in the UK as we do not experience extreme heat or cold, meaning the extinguisher can be easily stored in the boot of a car all year round.


Commercial Vehicles

Dry powder extinguishers are legally mandated in some commercial vehicles. They are used due to their effective ness in tackling liquid fires. Some commercial vehicles are required to carry specific types of extinguisher depending on the weight and material of the load being transported.


Heavy Goods Vehicles

Heavy Goods vehicles are required to comply with the ADR 1.1.3.6 Regulations which provides the following guidance on the appropriate use of Fire Extinguishers:

Vehicle Weight

Minimum Extinguisher Requirements

3.5 Tonnes and Below

4kg

3.5 - 7.5 Tonnes

6kg - 8kg (At least one 6kg Extinguisher)

Above 7.5 Tonnes

12kg (At least one 6kg Extinguisher)


Public Transport

Foam extinguishers are used in public transport systems due to their ability to tackle liquid fires. This type of extinguisher is used instead of powder extinguishers due to powder having a tendency to reduce visibility and cause serious respiratory issues if inhaled. Public transport vehicles are required by law to carry a fire extinguisher.


Private Hire Vehicles & Taxis

These vehicles are required by law to carry a fire extinguisher, specifically outlined by the local licencing authority. Most commonly a powder or foam extinguisher is used for these vehicles due to their ability to tackle liquid fires.


Motorhomes & Caravans

In motorhomes and caravans the most effective type of fire extinguisher is often a water mist extinguisher. This is due to the amount of combustible material inside of the vehicle and the risk of fire posed by cooking equipment installed in most motorhomes & caravans. A dry powder extinguisher may also be used for instances in which a fuel fire started and the occupants are able to exit the vehicle to combat the flames.


 

a fire exit sign in a corridor

Signage Requirements


In order to comply with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 many premises are required to put up fire safety signs in order to comply with standards. Different locations have different signage requirements depending on a few factors such as the number of people in a given area and the layout of the building.


The 5 Catagories of Fire Safety Signs


Fire safety signs fall into 5 catagories depending on their intended use, the colours used in these signs aligns with other nationally recognised safety regulations.


The following lists the 5 catagories of fire safety signs and their use:


  1. Warning Signs Yellow signs used to show the presence of a hazard for example in areas where flammable liquid is stored.

  2. Prohibition Signs These signs are used to show activities or actions that are not allowed in the area for example no smoking signs. Usually contain an image inside a red circle with a red line going through it.

  3. Emergency Exit and Escape Route Signs Emergency exit signs are green and contain arrows showing the location of the nearest fire exit through the specified escape route.

  4. Fire Equipment Signs These signs are usually red and show an image with the specific equipment and writing stating what the equipment is.


Uses of Fire Safety Signs


Fire safety signs provide information that could be vital in keeping people safe in the event of a fire. Whether it is the location of fire exits or instructions on how to use equipment to fight the fire, signage is used to provide helpful instruction that allows people to take advantage of the other safety measures provided.


Some types of fire safety signs might include:


  1. Fire Exit Signs These signs should show the direction of the emergency exits and should be visible even in low light conditions. These signs usually feature a symbol of a man running towards an exit.

  2. Fire Extinguisher Signs Fire extinguishers should have signs fixed alongside the equipment showing what type of extinguisher it is. In addition to this it is recommended that fire extinguisher signs are fitted to indicate the location of a fire extinguisher in a building.

  3. Fire Assembly Points Signs should be used to indicate the fire assembly point where people should muster in the event of a fire. This can help authorities to account for anyone left still inside the building and should be a clear area that is considered far from any fire risks.

  4. Fire Alarm Pull Stations Pull stations should have signs indicating their location to help people quickly locate them so that the alarm can be sounded. There may be additional signage next to the pull station providing instruction on how to sound the alarm.

  5. Mandatory Safety Signs Some of these signs might include instructions for keeping door closed and ensuring exits are marked as "keep clear". Others may provide general information on equipment and exit routes.


 

a male carrying out a fire extinguisher inspection

Inspection Requirements


It is mandatory for building owners and responsible persons to ensure the location they're responsible for adheres to fire safety regulations. Fire safety equipment is required to be properly inspected and maintained in order for it to function properly and regular risk assessments should be undertaken to ensure the safety systems are adequate.


Fire Extinguisher Inspection Requirements

Equipment such as fire extinguishers and alarms should be inspected regularly to assess their condition and ensure correct labelling. Extinguishers should be visually inspected by the responsible person once per month.


The British Standards state the following intervals between the servicing and replacement of fire extinguishers:

Extinguisher Type

Basic Service

Extended Service

Replacement

Water-Based

Every 12 Months

Every 5 Years

-

Powder

Every 12 Months

Every 5 Years

-

Powder-primary Sealed

Every 12 Months

Every 10 Years

-

Clean Agent

Every 12 Months

-

Every 10 Years

Halon

Every 12 Months

-

Every 10 Years

CO2

Every 12 Months

-

Every 10 Years


“regular visual inspections of all portable fire extinguishers be carried out by the user or user’s representative. The frequency of inspections by the user should be not less than monthly and, when circumstances require, inspections should be carried out more frequently”.

British Standard 5306-3


 

How many Fire Extinguishers?


The British Standard 5306 provides a formula that can be used to calculate the number of class A extinguishers that should be provided in a given area.


The formula states that a single 13A fire extinguisher is required for every 200m2 of floor space.


Therefore if you work in a single floor office covering 900m2 you can use the following equation.


900 / 200 = 4.5


This figure should then be rounded up giving us a total of five 13A rated fire extinguishers required to meet the current safety standards.


How many Extinguishers on Each Level?

In workspaces with multiple floors it is generally required that 2 or more fire extinguishers should be located on each level. There is some allowance in the number of required extinguishers if the floorspace is below 200m2.


 

Training in the Use of Fire Extinguishers


The Fire Safety Order 2005 states that employees should recieve adequate fire safety training, including training in the safe use of firefighting equipment. This ensures that if a staff member chooses to use a fire extinguisher they have been appropriately trained to use the equipment safe and effectively.


Our Fire Extinguisher course covers 3 essential areas when instructing learners on working with fire extinguishers:


  1. Basic Knowledge of Fire Extinguishers.

  2. Pre-Engagement Action.

  3. Using a Fire Extinguisher.


 

a link to a fire extinguisher course

 

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