Fire safety is a crucial aspect of running any business. Not only does it protect your employees, customers, and property from harm, but it also helps you comply with legal requirements and avoid penalties. One of the most important fire safety measures you need to take is to install and maintain adequate fire extinguishers on your business premises.
But how many fire extinguishers do you need? And what types of fire extinguishers should you choose? In this blog post, we will answer these questions and provide you with some practical tips on how to ensure your business is fire-safe.
The UK Fire Extinguisher Regulations
The UK fire extinguisher regulations are part of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, also known as the RRO. The RRO applies to all non-domestic premises in England and Wales, with some minor exceptions. The RRO requires that all business owners and managers conduct a fire risk assessment of their premises and take appropriate fire safety measures based on the findings.
One of the fire safety measures that the RRO requires is to provide suitable fire-fighting equipment, such as fire extinguishers. However, the RRO does not specify the exact number or type of fire extinguishers that you need to have. Instead, it leaves it to your discretion to determine what is suitable for your specific situation.
However, there are some general guidelines and standards that can help you make an informed decision. These include:
- BS 5306 part 8: This is a British Standard that provides recommendations on the selection and installation of portable fire extinguishers.
- BS EN 3: This is a European Standard that specifies the design, performance, and testing requirements for portable fire extinguishers.
- BS 9999: This is a British Standard that provides guidance on fire safety in the design, management, and use of buildings.
Read here also: How long do you have to keep business records in the UK
How many fire extinguishers are required in a business premises
The number of fire extinguishers you need depends on several factors, such as:
- The size and layout of your premises
- The type and level of fire risk in your premises
- The type and rating of fire extinguishers you use
- The location and accessibility of fire extinguishers
As a general rule of thumb, you should have at least two Class A fire extinguishers on every story of your building. Class A fire extinguishers are those that can put out fires involving ordinary combustible materials, such as wood, paper, cloth, rubber, or plastic. Class A fire extinguishers can have a water or foam base.
The minimum rating for a Class A fire extinguisher is 13A. This means that it can extinguish a test fire involving 13 liters of heptane fuel. The higher the rating, the more powerful the extinguisher. For example, a 21A-rated extinguisher can put out a test fire involving 21 liters of heptane fuel.
The maximum floor area that a single Class A fire extinguisher can cover depends on its rating and the level of hazard occupancy in your premises. Hazard occupancy refers to how likely a fire is to start and spread on your premises. There are three levels of hazard occupancy: low, ordinary, and high.
The table below shows the maximum floor area per unit of A for each level of hazard occupancy:
|Hazard Occupancy||Maximum Floor Area per Unit of A|
To calculate the maximum floor area that a single Class A fire extinguisher can cover, you need to multiply the maximum floor area per unit of A by the numerical A rating of the extinguisher. For example, if you have a 13A-rated extinguisher in an ordinary hazard occupancy, the maximum floor area it can cover is:
150 m2 x 13 = 1950 m2
This means that you need one 13A-rated Class A fire extinguisher for every 1950 m2 of floor space in an ordinary hazard occupancy. However, this does not mean that you can space them every 1950 m2 apart. You also need to consider the maximum travel distance to the nearest fire extinguisher, which is 30 meters for Class A fire extinguishers.
This means that from any point in your premises, you should not have to travel more than 30 meters to reach a Class A fire extinguisher. Therefore, you need to distribute them evenly and strategically throughout your premises, preferably near the exits and fire alarm call points.
The Types of Fire Extinguishers You Need
In addition to Class A fire extinguishers, you may also need other types of fire extinguishers depending on the equipment and materials on your premises. Different types of fire extinguishers are designed to fight different classes of fire, such as:
- Class B: Fires involving flammable liquids, such as petrol, diesel, oil, paint, or solvents.
- Class C: Fires involving flammable gases, such as propane, butane, methane, or hydrogen.
- Class D: Fires involving combustible metals, such as magnesium, aluminum, titanium, or sodium.
- Class F: Fires involving cooking oils or fats, such as in deep-fat fryers or chip pans.
- Electrical: Fires involving live electrical equipment, such as computers, servers, appliances, or wiring.
The table below shows the common types of fire extinguishers and their suitability for different classes of fire:
|Type of Fire Extinguisher||Color Code||Suitable for Class||Not Suitable for Class|
|Water||Red||A||B, C, D, F, Electrical|
|Foam||Cream||A, B||C, D, F, Electrical|
|Dry Powder||Blue||A, B, C||D, F|
|Carbon Dioxide (CO2)||Black||B, Electrical||A, C, D, F|
|Wet Chemical||Yellow||A, F||B, C, D|
|Metal (Special Powder)||White||D||A, B, C|
The minimum rating for a Class B fire extinguisher is 34B. This means that it can extinguish a test fire involving 34 liters of heptane fuel. The higher the rating, the more powerful the extinguisher. For example, a 55 B-rated extinguisher can put out a test fire involving 55 liters of heptane fuel.
The maximum travel distance to the nearest Class B fire extinguisher is 10 meters for low and ordinary hazard occupancies and 5 meters for high hazard occupancies.
The minimum rating for a Class F fire extinguisher is 40F. This means that it can extinguish a test fire involving 40 liters of cooking oil. The higher the rating, the more powerful the extinguisher. For example, a 75F-rated extinguisher can put out a test fire involving 75 liters of cooking oil.
The maximum travel distance to the nearest Class F fire extinguisher is 10 meters.
There is no rating system for electrical fires. However, you should use a CO2 fire extinguisher with a minimum capacity of 2 kg for electrical fires. If the electrical equipment has a voltage rating of more than 415 volts, you should use a CO2 fire extinguisher with a minimum capacity of 5 kg.
The maximum travel distance to the nearest CO2 fire extinguisher is 10 meters.
Some Practical Tips on Fire Extinguisher Placement and Maintenance
Here are some practical tips on how to ensure your fire extinguishers are placed and maintained properly:
- Make sure your fire extinguishers are visible and accessible at all times. Do not obstruct them with furniture or other objects.
- Make sure your fire extinguishers are mounted securely on the wall or a stand. The carrying handle should be at a height of between 0.9 meters and 1.5 meters from the floor.
- Make sure your fire extinguishers are labeled clearly with their type and instructions for use. You can also use pictograms or signs to indicate their location and suitability.
- Make sure your fire extinguishers are checked regularly by a competent person. You should inspect them at least once a month for any signs of damage or leakage. You should also have them serviced annually by a qualified technician.
- Make sure your fire extinguishers are replaced or refilled when necessary. You should replace them if they are damaged or discharged. You should also replace them when they reach their expiry date or when they fail the service test.
The Importance of Fire Risk Assessment
A fire risk assessment is the most important piece of documentation and information you will require, as it will inform every part of your fire system.
The government of the United Kingdom has released “Fire Safety in the Workplace” guidance, which specifies that a fire risk assessment must be performed by a competent person. This means that if you do not have someone who is fully trained to deal with fires and has qualifications such as BAFE accreditations, you are at a disadvantage.
Note: The number of fire extinguishers required in your business will be described in this paper, and you must ensure that you adhere to the rules.
Businesses can also follow the British Safety fire extinguisher rules BS 5306-8 2012. They recommend installing at least two Class A fire extinguishers on each story of a structure unless the premises are exceptionally small. Water extinguishers of 3, 6, or 9 liters are often used.
This advice is merely a guideline and should not be taken as gospel. For example, if a floor in your organization has significant square footage, two fire extinguishers may be insufficient.
Fire extinguishers are essential fire safety equipment for any business premises. They can help you control small fires and prevent them from spreading and causing more damage. However, you need to have the right number and type of fire extinguishers for your specific situation.
To determine how many fire extinguishers you need in your business premises, you need to conduct a fire risk assessment and follow the UK fire extinguisher regulations and standards.
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