Fire extinguishers are crucial in the workplace, not least because every business is required to be compliant with legislation. All employees and visitors to the building must have adequate means to protect themselves in the event of a fire. Fire safety in the workplace should be a top priority for any business owner.
The true value of fire extinguishers shouldn’t be underestimated. Here, we look at the vital role they play in a workplace setting.
What is the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005?
Employers and property owners must take responsibility for and adopt the correct behaviours and procedures as outlined in the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, which covers general fire safety in England and Wales (Scotland’s equivalent is Fire (Scotland) Act 2005). They must take reasonable steps to reduce the risk of fire and ensure the necessary equipment is to hand to aid a safe escape. Local fire and rescue authorities are usually responsible for enforcing this safety legislation (although the Health and Safety Executive has enforcement responsibility on construction sites). Under the order, the person who has control of the premises must carry out a fire-risk assessment, get rid of or reduce the risk of fire as far as is possible and provide general fire precautions and other measures to ensure protection. The order requires that the premises are, to the extent that it is appropriate, equipped with appropriate firefighting equipment (as well as fire detectors and alarms).
Understanding the value of fire extinguishers
Fire extinguishers provide a first-aid response and help prevent devastating damage to property and even loss of life. However, this isn’t simply a one-size-fits-all approach. A fire can start in various scenarios and ignite from several sources, necessitating unique extinguishers to tackle each type of fire.
Fire-extinguisher type is specified according to fire risk (or ‘class’) in that environment. Water extinguishers are used on Class A fires (those with a solid source of wood, paper or textiles, for example), while foam extinguishers are suitable for Class A and B fires (flammable liquids). Though carrying a B classification, a CO2 unit is ideal for an electrical fire risk, leaving no residue nor carrying a risk of damage to associated equipment. Dry powder extinguishers can be used on Class A, B and C fires – so burning solids, liquids and gases.
The workplace should feature fire extinguishers according to the materials found there. Hospitals, schools and offices, for example, should feature CO2 extinguishers because of all the electrical equipment used. Construction sites and warehouses, however, are high risk for a number of types of fire as fuel sources are everywhere. Each year, there are a number of serious fires on construction sites and buildings undergoing refurbishment. From site workers’ cigarettes to waste materials and flammable gases and liquids, there are many risks on a construction site so it’s likely several types of extinguisher will be required. And with the project constantly evolving and hazards changing rapidly, it’s not always a simple task deciphering which extinguisher is required where. A fire-risk assessment is the starting point here.
Prioritising fire-extinguisher protection
Whatever their setting, fire extinguishers can be vulnerable to vandalism, accidental damage and corrosion. In construction sites, there’s been a worrying rise in arson attacks (thanks to their being deserted in the evening). In any workplace, measures should be taken to protect vital firefighting equipment from these threats. And for extinguishers stored outdoors, BS 5306 requires them to be protected to withstand the elements. Cabinets and stands are recommended to protect fire extinguishers from damage and discourage misuse. Lockable or otherwise, cabinets protect against vandalism, dust, dirt and accidental discharge.
Easily located and identifiable fire extinguishers are a vital component of any workplace and are required to be legally compliant. When it comes to fire safety, overlooking them is a huge risk that no business should take.
CheckFire supplies renowned brands of fire extinguishers, as well as supporting fire-safety equipment, to the fire trade.
For more information, go to www.checkfire.co.uk