[Skip to content]

FM World logo
Text Size: A A A
20 February 2019
View the latest issue of FM
Sign up to Facilitate Daily >
FM World daily e-newsletter logo



It’s not enough simply to have a fire extinguisher in the case of a fire; you need to make sure it is the right model for the specific fire and that it is well-maintained, says Scott Taylor.

Fire Extinguisher
© iStock

04 December 2018 | Scott Taylor

1) Different types of fire extinguishers
It’s important to know your fire extinguisher colours and what they represent because each has been developed with a different type of fire in mind. The categories are as follows:

Red = Water
Usually suitable for fires involving solids such as paper or wood

Beige/Brown = Foam
Can be used on ‘solids’ fires, but also safe for use on flammable liquids

Black = CO2
Designed for use on flammable liquids and electrical fires

Yellow = Wet chemical
Exclusively used for fires involving hot fats and oils

Blue = Dry powder
All-purpose extinguisher suitable for use on solids, flammable liquids and gas and electrical fires.

2) A warning  

A quick note on dry powder fire extinguishers: they sound like a ‘magic bullet’, but their deployment generally leaves a huge mess, which is hard to clean up and can cause irreversible damage to some materials. Additionally, they should not be used in confined spaces, as the powder should not be inhaled, and it is also possible that fires extinguished using powder may reignite. 

3) Compliance with regulations 

If you supply firefighting equipment you must make sure it is working correctly and your staff has adequate training to be able to use it safely. As a minimum, all fire extinguishers should be visually checked weekly by your responsible person. Things to look out for:

  • All extinguishers are in place;
  • Access to extinguishers is unobstructed;
  • The pressure is adequate; and
  • There are no signs of damage or tampering (e.g. broken seals).


4) What to do next 

Book an annual service by a competent person. Most businesses will need to contact an independent external fire safety company. Following the service visit, the company will usually supply you with a report indicating what (if any) changes you need to make. It’s important that you follow any action points they note, as they are usually legally required recommendations.

5) Always remember 

In summary, in order to protect yourself, your business, employees and the general public, extinguishers are a necessity. Once they are installed, it is your responsibility to ensure that they are maintained, serviced and functional. You should also make sure your employees have adequate fire safety training to:

  • Ascertain whether or not it is safe to fight the fire in the first place; and
  • Use the equipment safely in the event that they deem it safe to fight the fire.

Although it might appear that keeping up with the regulations on fire safety equipment is hard work, it is the best way to ensure that a small fire does not become a threat to your business.

Scott Taylor is managing director at Assessed Risk