Are Fire Extinguishers Really Needed?

Are fire extinguishers needed?
1024 536 Fire Risk Assessment & Fire Safety Training

Are fire extinguishers really needed in businesses?

Often used as elaborate door wedges, they are a vital resource for any business.  They are even seen by the fire community as a cost effective extinguishing agent, with myself taking part in numerous trials of new extinguishing agent, which not only save money but reduces the 1000’s of litres of water used to put a fire out, which in turn impacts upon the environment.

Businesses have a specific duty of care for fire safety to those who use or visit their premises and fire extinguishers represent an essential first line of defence against the risks posed by fire.

According to the Fire Industry Association (FIA) a survey has highlighted that rather than declining in importance, portable fire extinguishers have an even more vital role to play as a first aid response to fire, with 88 percent of fires that are tackled with portable fire extinguishers actually being extinguished.

This is an increase on the figure from a similar survey conducted back in 2003, which identified that in 80 percent of fires where extinguishers were employed, the fires were successfully extinguished.

Under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005(RRO) the responsible person must provide and maintain appropriate fire-fighting equipment.

The provision of suitable fire extinguishers is dependent on several factors including the type of fire. Fires are divided in to various classes – Class A refers to those involving carbonaceous materials such as paper and wood, Class B to fires involving flammable liquids, Class C to fires involving flammable gases, Class D to metal based fires and Class F is for fires involving cooking oils and fats.

Electrical fires are not included since they can fall into any class but there are extinguishers for use where an electrical current may be present.

Guidance on what is deemed to be an adequate provision of portable fire extinguishers is found in British Standard BS 5306 Pt.8, which covers their selection and installation and is referred to in the various Fire Guides published by the Communities and Local Government to help the responsible person.

The British Standard also provides guidance on accessibility, mounting and location of fire extinguishers, which generally should be easily available in conspicuous positions on brackets, or stands where persons following an escape route will readily see them. Some, of course, may need to be positioned close to a specific fire hazards but not so near as to be inaccessible or place the operator in undue danger in case of fire.

Maintenance not only means annual servicing by a competent person but also includes weekly checks to ensure extinguishers remain readily accessible and in operational working order.

Importantly the responsible person must also provide adequate fire safety training to their staff, which will take account of the findings of the risk assessment and explain the emergency procedures. All staff are at least, expected to know the location of fire protection equipment and basic operating procedures, just in case they are needed. Appropriate staff, such as fire marshals, would need suitable additional training. Clearly safety is paramount and no one should attempt to tackle a fire unless it is safe to do so. Many do not consider the fact that an individual may need an extinguisher to aid their escape in the event of a fire, with comments such as ‘if there’s a fire I will just run’ being very common, but few consider that they may not be able to ‘just run’.

As detailed in the RRO, businesses that do not comply with the legislation can expect to face sanctions by the enforcing authority, which may include alterations notices, enforcement notices and prohibition notices. Failure to comply with a notice will result in prosecution and penalties include fines, imprisonment or both.

It is abundantly evident that fire safety is something that all businesses should take very seriously, and fire extinguishers must form an integral part of any firm’s approach to it.

Portable fire extinguishers form an important part of the fire safety measures for a building being ‘first aid’ appliances, for use on small fires in their early stages. Businesses are well advised to provide staff with appropriate suitable training to raise the alarm and extinguish a small fire safely to stop it having devastating consequences.”

Assessed Risk are experts in fire extinguishers and would be happy to assist your business in any way possible. You can contact us right now by calling on 0800 634868 or by email using


Scott Taylor MIFireE, MIFSM, CFPA E-Dip TC

Scott Taylor has worked as a fire professional for over 15 years working in the public and commercial sector. He likes to work with businesses as a partner, passing on knowledge and information in a pragmatic manner balancing risk, benefit and cost to ensure compliance.

All stories by: Scott Taylor MIFireE, MIFSM, CFPA E-Dip TC