Fire Extinguishers: A Guide for Businesses

As a business owner, you’ll probably already know that it’s a legal requirement to ensure you have the necessary equipment in place to facilitate a safe evacuation from the premises, in the event of a fire.

In many cases, this will mean making sure you have access to fire extinguishers in the building. However, fire extinguisher regulation in the UK isn’t always easy to understand. And it’s not helped by the fact that there are five different types of fire extinguisher that a business may need in order to minimise risk:


Colour: Red

Used for: Class A fires caused by solid combustibles such as paper, card, wood, and fabric. This is the most common type of fire to break out in offices, and may also be seen in manufacturing facilities.


Colour: Blue

Used for: All fires except oil-based fires. Powder extinguishers can be used on Class A (combustibles), Class B (liquids), Class C (gases), Class D (metals), and electrical fires such as computers and generators.


Colour: Cream

Used for: Class A fires (combustibles) and Class B fires (flammable liquids including paint and petrol). Class B fires are most likely to break out in garages, construction sites, hospitals, and laboratories.

Carbon dioxide

Colour: Black

Used for: Electrical fires. Carbon dioxide extinguishers are suitable for use on both high and low voltage equipment. Electrical fires can be started by faulty sockets, old wiring, and appliances overheating.

Wet chemical

Colour: Yellow

Used for: Class A fires and Class F fires (oil-based fires such as chip pans and deep fat fryers). These extinguishers are best suited to restaurants, takeaways, and business venues with cooking facilities.

Although it does take a bit of time to get your head around the different types of fires and different types of extinguishers, it’s important to learn the differences. Using the wrong extinguisher could accelerate the spread of the fire, increasing risk and reducing the average evacuation time for your staff and visitors.

What type of extinguisher do I need?

It’s important to ensure that you have access to fire extinguishers to tackle any of the types of fire that could break out on your premises. For some businesses, this will be simple to determine. But for others, it could be more complex. A fire risk assessment can help you to better understand your risk level.

Who can use fire extinguishers?

Fire extinguishers should not be used by those without appropriate training. This could increase the risk of the wrong extinguisher being used, or of the extinguisher being used incorrectly. It’s a good idea to build a fire safety team, trained to use essential fire fighting equipment, within your organisation.

How many fire extinguishers do I need?

Under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, businesses should have one fire extinguisher per 200 metres of floor area, and a minimum of one per floor. However, this only takes into account size, not risk level. Book a fire risk assessment to learn more about the optimal number of extinguishers for you.

Are fire extinguishers all I need?

Whether or not you can meet your legal requirements through fire extinguishers alone will depend on a number of factors. These include the level of risk within the organisation, the size and layout of your space, and the type of building you’re operating from. For example, it’s a legal requirement that any business with an uncompartmented, open-plan area of more than 2000 square metres must have a sprinkler system.

What else do I need to know?

Fire extinguishers should be positioned in easy access locations and at identifiable fire points across each floor. In accordance with the BS 5036-6 standard, all fire extinguishers should have a basic service every 12 months. This will ensure they’re working properly and are ready to protect your business when needed.

For more information on business fire safety and commercial sprinkler systems, visit our blog, or contact us at Eversafe Fire Protection based in Kent we cover Nationwide.