What type of fire extinguisher do I need?

Modern workplaces are full of electrical equipment, from our kitchens to our desks. The Health and Safety Executive reports around 8,000 electrical accidents at work each year. Many end in serious injuries or even fatalities.

Whether you’re in the workplace or at home, you need adequate fire protection equipment. One of the most essential defences is a fire extinguisher – but you must make sure you have the right one.

There are five main fire extinguisher types: water, foam, dry powder, carbon dioxide and wet chemical. Each has a different extinguishing agent designed to tackle specific fires.

All employers must protect their workers from fire hazards. An essential part of a fire risk assessment is ensuring that the right fire extinguishers are readily available. This is a legal responsibility under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

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Classes of fire

There are six different types of fire, split into classes depending on the material that is burning.

  1. Class A fires: Fuelled by combustible materials such as:
  • Wood
  • Paper
  1. Class B fires: Fuelled by flammable liquids like:
  • Petrol
  • Paint
  1. Class C fires: Fuelled by flammable gases, including:
  • Methane
  • Butane
  1. Class D fires: Fuelled by flammable metals, such as:
  • Lithium
  • Potassium
  1. Electrical fires: Fires in electrical equipment, like computers and televisions. Once the electrical item has been removed, the fire changes class.
  2. Class F fires: Fires fuelled by cooking oils. A classic example is a chip-pan fire.

Now that you know the six classes of fires, you can use the right fire extinguisher.

Water fire extinguishers

A water fire extinguisher is only used on Class A fires. For this reason, these types are popular in homes, offices and shops. They shoot high-pressure water that has a cooling effect on the flames. Some water extinguishers also contain chemical additives to increase their effectiveness.

Foam fire extinguishers

Foam extinguishers are used with Class A and B fires. They cool fires while their foaming agent starves flames of their fuel, extinguishing the fire. They are also commonly found in offices, hospitals and shops.

Dry powder fire extinguishers

Dry powder extinguishers are known as ABC extinguishers as they can be used on Class A, B and C fires. They’re appropriate for garages and boiler rooms, although they can be easily inhaled, so should be used cautiously in enclosed spaces. Specialist dry powder extinguishers can also be used on Class D fires.

Carbon dioxide fire extinguishers

CO2 fire extinguishers are mainly used for electrical fires. They’re found in server rooms, offices and areas with many electrical appliances. CO2 extinguishers starve fires of oxygen to stop them burning.

Wet chemical fire extinguishers

Suitable for Class F fires, wet chemical extinguishers are used for kitchen fires. They work by creating an oxygen-proof layer on top of burning oils. Restaurants and kitchens should keep a wet chemical fire extinguisher close to stovetops.

Safety first

To comply with fire safety regulations, you must have suitable fire extinguishers. A risk assessment and professional extinguisher servicing will help you meet your fire safety responsibilities. Contact us today to get started.


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