Anyone controlling, even if in part (e.g. a landlord or employer), a premises has a duty to make sure the building is safe for everyone, therefore they must provide adequate fire protection measures as determined by a fire risk assessment.

Nobody is expected to risk death or injury in an attempt to stop a fire, but if the fire is detected at a very early stage, before it has a chance to grow, then it may be possible for someone who has the right training and equipment to extinguish it.

Additionally, while your fire risk assessment should make sure there are safe means of escape, someone may get trapped by a fire and need to use an extinguisher as an emergency aid to escape.

Key actions for effective provision of fire extinguishers

  • Make sure that the competent person carrying out your fire risk assessment is given all information about the hazards on your site, including safety data provided by the manufacturer or supplier of raw materials and products.
  • Identify the types and numbers of extinguishers needed and where they need to be located. BS 5306-8 covers the selection and installation of portable fire extinguishers.
  • The type needed depends on the class of fire:
    • Class A – solid materials (wood, fabric, etc.).
    • Class B – liquids or liquefiable solids (e.g. paints).
    • Class C – flammable gases.
    • Class D – combustible metals, such as magnesium and aluminium.
    • Electrical – electrical equipment (once the item is removed or isolated, the class will change depending on what is on fire).
    • Class F – cooking oils and fats.
  • Don’t let older extinguishers mix with newer ones with different colouring – this can get confusing. Newer fire extinguishers manufactured to BS EN 3 are red and have panels above the instructions coloured like this:
    • Red= water
    • White= water mist
    • Blue= Powder (older extinguishers may be blue all over)
    • Cream= foam (older extinguishers may be cream all over)
    • Black= carbon dioxide
    • Yellow= wet chemical
  • Remove and safely dispose of any halon extinguishers (coloured green) – they’re banned in the UK.
  • Keep extinguishers on secure wall brackets, or on suitable stands, at marked fire points, the locations of which are to be determined by a fire risk assessment.  The carrying handle of larger, heavier extinguishers should be about 1 metre from the floor to help with lifting.
    • No part of the premises should be more than 30 metres from a fire point.
    • At these fire points there must be signs that comply with the Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations, identifying the type of extinguisher with relevant warnings.
    • Fire points should be checked weekly to make sure the extinguishers are present, accessible and in good usable condition.
  • Get employees trained by a qualified person familiar with the hazards present at your premises. New employees should get the training as part of their induction (while arrangements must also be made for refresher training).
    • Take particular care that using special extinguishers, relevant to hazardous processes and materials, is covered by training.
  • Confirm training includes how to prevent groundwater getting polluted (i.e. due to substances in extinguishers being discharged or emptied onto the ground in such a way that they’re allowed to seep into the ground).
  • Put an annual inspection and service contract in place with a firm approved by the Loss Prevention Certification Board (LPCB) and or registered with BAFE.
  • Confirm with your fire extinguisher supplier or maintenance company which extinguishers need to be covered by a written scheme of examination and periodic pressure testing for compliance with  BAFE.
  • Confirm with your fire extinguisher supplier or maintenance company which extinguishers need to be covered by a written scheme of examination and periodic pressure testing for compliance with pressure vessel regulations.
  • Keep records of all training, maintenance, servicing and inspections.
  • Make sure all employees understand water extinguishers should only ever be used to put out a Class A fire.
    • Dry powder extinguishers will be appropriate for all classes (except F), although there may be more effective alternatives for each class.
  • Provide carbon dioxide (CO2) extinguishers for areas more likely to be affected by electrical fire. (Dry powder can also be used up to 1,000 volts.)
  • Those working in kitchens need to know only wet chemical extinguishers should be used on fires involving cooking fats.
    • The only other type of fire a wet chemical extinguisher may be used on is Class A – those involving combustible materials (but not metals).
    • Fire blankets conforming to BS EN 1869 (for light duty domestic uses), or BS 7944 (for heavy duty industrial uses) may be used instead of, or as well as, a wet chemical extinguisher on small pan fires.
  • Don’t provide foam extinguishers in domestic environments (e.g. communal areas in a residential block of flats).

Templates for maintaining fire protection measures

Fire risk assessment

Assessment form

Fire risk checklist

Emergency procedures

Lighting test form

Risk assessments

Example form

Additional resources

Frequently asked questions

Find answers to some common queries about preventing and controlling fires and related issues.