Fire Extinguishers in the Workplace

Fire Extinguishers in the Workplace


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

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

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.

Published by valentine belonwu


  1. Alan Murfee · April 20, 2013

    Well..! I would like to appreciate the information given above surrounding fire extinguisher use. It would prove so handy & helpful for there are so many people uneducated about fire Extinguisher’s proper use.

  2. Elle@Employer Liability Solicitors · April 26, 2013

    Section 11 of the 2005 Act states that employers are required to prepare and revise adequate emergency plans and procedures and provide the necessary measures for fire fighting and the evacuation of the workplace. Consideration for all employees and anyone connected with the workplace must form part of how an employer addresses the area of safety health and welfare and specifically the provision of emergency access and egress.

    Section 12 of the 2005 Act clarifies that consideration must also be given to the safety of persons other than employees within the workplace. Everything reasonably practicable must be done to ensure that all individuals at the place of work are not exposed to risks to their safety and health. In addition section 15 places obligations on landlord’s who own (but are otherwise unconnected) with a workplace to ensure that there is safe access and egress from the place of work.

  3. Belfor DC · April 26, 2013

    how can you tell which one is which?

  4. Sall · May 28, 2013

    Really informative, I don’t think a lot of people realise there are different fire extinguishers for different classes of fire. It’s vital that people know which is which, what they are for and are comprehensively trained before use. Also know at what point to stop attempting to tackle a fire and evacuate if it gets out of your control.

    The other thing with dry power, although the most versatile and ‘multi purpose’, they can cause serious damage to health if inhaled and can obstruct vision if used in confined spaces.

    Like you said, it’s best to get the professionals in to advise on the most suitable extinguisher. Once stored, make sure they are regularly maintained and checked.

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