We often get asked “How many fire extinguishers should a business have?” In this article we explain how you should decide how many fire extinguishers your business should have.
As with everything in health and safety, you must carry out a risk assessment to determine which fire-fighting control measures your business required. All workplaces should have water extinguishers for general use, but the results of your fire risk assessment should identify ignition and fuel sources which will inform you of any additional types of extinguisher you must provide.
How do I decide how many class A extinguishers I need?
The number of class A extinguishers will depend on guidance given in BS 5306: Fire Extinguishing Installations. It gives a formula for calculating the number of class A extinguishers, this is based on one 13A extinguisher covering 200 m2 of floor area. If your business is split over several floors there should be at least two fire extinguishers per floor, unless the floor is less than 100m2 in area then one is acceptable. If an automatic fire suppression system is fitted, you may reduce the number of extinguishers provided.
What is a 13A extinguisher?
As well as extinguishers being identified by class of fire, they should also have a rating. The ratings are shown on the label and tell you the size of fire they can extinguish. Class A fire extinguishers are tested by putting out a standard sized wooden tower. The amount of the tower they can extinguish determines their rating. For example, a 13A extinguisher will put out 1.3m of the standard sized fire. The A denotes it is a class A extinguisher. Ratings on class B extinguishers are given in litres and this denotes the amount of burning fuel they can put out, for example 55B can be used on 55 litres of burning liquid. As a general rule of thumb, the larger the number, the larger the fire that can be extinguished.
You should select the number of class B, C, D or F fire extinguishers based on the type of fuel in your workplace and the size of the fire you would expect to have to extinguish.
We have lots of IT equipment, so what about extinguishers for electrical fires?
The advice is to turn off the power supply to electrical equipment before tackling a fire, so the type of extinguisher used should be chosen to suit the fuel. In an emergency remembering to isolate the equipment may not happen, so it would be wise to choose an extinguisher that is marked on the label as suitable for use on an electrical fire. Carbon dioxide extinguishers are commonly selected for use on fires that involve electrical equipment.
I could end up with lots of different fire extinguishers, which my staff could find confusing. Do I have to have a different one for each type of fire hazard?
Not necessarily. Obviously if you use flammable liquids you would not want to only supply class A fire extinguishers, but you could use class B (foam) extinguishers instead as they can be used on both class A and B fires. If your fire risk assessment indicates that you have high levels of risk or a complicated scenario you may find it helpful to seek expert advice. Envesca has a team of fire safety consultants who can help you with this.
Envesca offer two levels of fire courses, both of which offer advice and guidance on Fire Extinguishers.
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