You have many legal obligations with regard to the wellbeing of your employees, and many of these obligations are in the area of fire safety. The law requires that all workplaces be fitted with adequate fire safety equipment, including fire extinguishers. Having these fitted, however, is pointless unless you and your staff know how to use them properly.
Incorrect use of fire extinguishers can put both your staff and property in further jeopardy. Training is key to keeping your workplace safe, by making sure everyone knows how to use each fire extinguisher you can help protect both your business and its most important asset, the people within it.
Water fire extinguishers are marked by an all red label and are rather limited in their use. They are useful for tackling fires in common combustible materials such as paper and textiles but are ineffective against liquids such as petrol. By using water on electrical equipment you risk electrocution, and water mixed with burning fat will only aggravate the flames. A water extinguisher is best placed in storage spaces containing neither of the above hazards.
Foam extinguishers have a cream label and form a denser protective surface over a fire. This density makes them ideal for flammable liquids; however, because they are water based they have the same disadvantages as water extinguishers when it comes to tackling electrical and kitchen fires. They are ideal in workplaces containing mechanical machinery with few electronic components.
Dry powder extinguishers have a blue label and can fight a range of fires. They form a thick dry coat over a fire which is effective on most combustible materials except cooking oil. By using them in the office you are likely to permanently damage computers and other electrical equipment, however, if unsure what to use, they are the safest bet.
Wet chemical extinguishers have a yellow label and are primarily used on cooking oils and fats. These are an essential in any commercial kitchen, especially if you have a deep fat fryer. Using this extinguisher on a fryer will put it out of action for a while, so many people prefer to use a fire blanket first. While this is perfectly acceptable, you should always have a wet chemical extinguisher in reserve.
CO2 extinguishers have a black label and are useful against small fires in office spaces. They are effective against liquids and electricals and can be used on wood and textiles. Lightweight materials such as paper, however, will be blown around, potentially spreading the flames. Also, inhaling CO2 can be harmful so these should not be discharged in enclosed spaces.
A half full extinguisher is pointless, after every use they need to be replaced. Therefore you should completely discharge an extinguisher when using it. The extinguishers in a workplace are only designed to put out a fire immediately, or aid the evacuation. No member of staff should be left to tackle a fire once it is out of control.
The ideal set of fire fighting equipment is different for every business, so if you are unsure you can hire a fire protection service to get you set up. By preparing for fire you are helping to protect your employees and assets, as well as fulfil your legal and moral obligations.
Fire protection and containment is just one of the services offered by MITIE, who have many qualified technicians as well as FIRAS and LPS 1500 accreditation.