Precisely how vital are portable fire extinguishers to businesses, homes, schools and society as a whole? Without any doubt, fire extinguishers are crucial as they are the most often utilized method of defence. In case of a fire breakout, these fire extinguishers are the first line of defence as they help contain or extinguish fires. While individuals may not notice the presence of these gadgets, they are a critical component in case of fires.
Fire can have many harmful effects for any individual who is unfortunate enough to be close during the breakout. Apart from causing life-changing bodily harm, fire can damage property, leading to losses and expensive repairs. For that reason, it is imperative to take fire prevention measures, whether on business premises or at home.
Before we get into fire extinguisher regulations, it is essential to learn more about the categories in the market today.
Fire Extinguisher Categories
In the UK today, fire extinguishers can be divided into 6 categories, depending on the type of fire they are designed to extinguish:
- Class A – Flammable carbon-based substances, such as paper, textiles or wood.
- Class B – Combustible liquids such as petrol, diesel, oil and paraffin.
- Class C – Combustible gases including butane, propane or methane.
- Class D – Flammable metals, such as aluminum, magnesium and lithium.
- Electric – Electricity-related fire.
- Class F – Includes cooking oils and fats.
Each category of fire extinguisher is used to contain and extinguish a fire, depending on the type. For instance:
- Water, water mist, foam, dry powder, and wet chemical (Class A)
- Water mist, foam, dry powder, CO2, and certain wet chemical (Class B)
- Water mist, dry powder (Class C)
- Dry powder for specialized applications (Class D).
- Water mist, foam, and CO2 – electrical.
- Wet chemical, water mist (Class F).
UK Fire Extinguisher Regulations
Installing fire extinguishers can be one of the simplest ways to ensure fire breakouts can be contained before they cause massive damages. However, the UK Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) is still a blur for many individuals. Every building or business owner has a legal obligation to install fire-fighting equipment if there is a high risk of fire breakouts. Fire-fighting equipment includes the likes of portable fire extinguishers, fire hydrant systems and automatic sprinkler systems.
Apart from installing fire-fighting equipment, the RRO requires designated Responsible Persons (business and homeowners or managers) to develop a fire management plan. Before creating and maintaining a fire management plan, these RPs are responsible for carrying out fire safety risk assessments.
Whether you run a small or big business, fire safety risk assessment is crucial for creating a reliable fire management plan. Additionally, Responsible Persons should provide free training to employees on the location and use the fire extinguishers correctly. The training should also encompass everything ranging from conducting fire drills to evacuation protocols in the case of a fire breakout.
Simple Guide to Fire Extinguisher Regulations in the UK
As mentioned earlier, fire extinguisher regulations in the UK can be a little complicated for any individual. Here is a simplified guide to help you understand more about the UK’s laws and regulations on fire extinguishers.
Required number of fire extinguishers
According to the regulations, there should be at least 2 Class A fire extinguishers on every floor of any building. However, one fire extinguisher may be enough for smaller buildings. The most common fire extinguishers in many buildings today are foam, water and CO2 for electric fires.
As most premises have at least one electrical equipment, the law requires that RPs install 2k or 5kg CO2 extinguishers in every building. The number of these fire extinguishers depends on the size of the building and the fire risk level.
Location of fire extinguisher
Ideally, you should install fire extinguishers where they are visible and accessible by any individual. Such locations should be near exits and fire alarm call-points to ensure someone gets to them by moving away from the fire.
Fire extinguishers should sit 60 m apart to ensure that an employee or resident is within 30 meters from a fire extinguisher at any given time. Fire extinguishers can be mounted on a wall using brackets or installed on a rigid floor stand if they are heavier. These heavier fire extinguishers should have handles fixed at about 1 meter to ensure that it is reachable to anyone.
Fire extinguisher commissioning
A qualified person professional – generally an individual with the British Approvals for Fire Excellence (BAFE) or someone with comparable accreditation from a third-party-certified fire safety organization – must commission fire extinguishers on site.
That entails a comprehensive examination to ensure that they are suitable for their intended use. A professional will issue a certificate to demonstrate fire extinguisher compliance with the requirements.
Fire extinguisher maintenance and servicing
It is essential to keep fire extinguishers in good working condition. Maintaining fire extinguishers involves inspecting them at least once each month. Additionally, you need to have them inspected and maintained by a professional once every year. Lastly, fire extinguisher canisters should be emptied to give room for a more thorough inspection before being re-filled every six years.