Fire Extinguishers

The Colours and the Fires

Posted on: 05/05/2015   By: Lee Rance

We all see them (or not) every day in the corner of the office or workplace. Some people use them to wedge doors open in the summer, a lot of the time they are just overlooked. But do employees know exactly what’s in the extinguisher, how to use them and what type of fires can be extinguished?

What exactly determines the type and quantity of extinguishers or other fire safety equipment you need?














From 1st October 2006 The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 required all non-domestic premises to carry out a fire risk assessment. The fire risk assessment should identify the following things:

  • Any fire hazards present and people at risk and to remove or reduce the risk of those hazards causing harm to as low as is reasonably practicable.
  • To determine what fire safety measures and management policies are necessary to ensure the safety of people in the building should fire occur and to reduce the probability of a fire starting.
  • Ensuring that all occupants are alerted and can leave the premises safely in the event of a fire.
  • Limiting the effects should a fire occur.

One of the fire safety measures that the fire risk assessment will identify is the location and type of extinguisher required appropriate to the nature of the potential fire. As a general rule, in a low risk workplace an employee should be within 30 metres of a fire extinguisher. It is best to site them close to potential fire risk and at room exit doors and stairways.

The nature of the fire risk will be entirely dependent on the type of business e.g. a chip shop will need a completely different extinguisher to an office complex.

There are 6 different classes of fire:

  • A – Solids, such as wood, paper and plastic.
  • B – Flammable liquids, such as paraffin, petrol, oil etc.
  • C – Flammable gases, such as propane, butane, methane etc.
  • D – Burning metals, such as aluminium, magnesium, titanium etc.
  • E – Fires involving electrical apparatus.
  • F – Cooking oil, fats etc.

Each of these classes of fire requires different extinguishers. Each extinguisher is colour coded:

Fire Ex colours







The dry powder extinguisher can be used to extinguish the most classes of fire but the cheapest and most widely used extinguisher is the water extinguisher.

Some businesses have a policies in place where they instruct their employees not to take a risk and tackle fires but to get out of the building to safety but there is a legal requirement that employees are instructed on the use of extinguishers.

Next time you pass an extinguisher, take a look to see what type of extinguisher it is and what class of fire it can tackle.

If you need any advice on extinguishers or need a fire risk assessment. Give us a call on 01908 632418 or drop us an email.

Until next time.

Lee Rance