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Fire extinguishers

As a business owner, you have responsibility for the provision of appropriate firefighting equipment. It is also your responsibility to check that all firefighting equipment is located correctly and in effective working order.

Safety Marks

Buy wisely. Whatever type or make of fire extinguisher you choose, make sure it conforms to the appropriate British Standard

Types of extinguisher

The Main types of extinguisher that you will come across are:

  • Water (red)
  • CO2 (black)
  • Dry Powder (blue)
  • Foam(cream)

These have been colour-coded (in accordance with BS EN 3:1996) so that you can identify them quickly and you do not put yourself in danger by using the wrong extinguisher. Always follow the manufacturer's instructions.

Water extinguisher


This fire extinguisher is colour-coded red and can be used for Class A fires, i.e. solids only, such as wood, paper and fabrics. Not suitable for Class B liquid fires e.g. paraffin, petrol, oil fires or where electricity is involved. It works by cooling burning material.

CO2 extinguisher


This fire extinguisher is colour-coded black and is ideal for fires involving electrical apparatus and Class B liquid fires. It does not cool and is not suitable for solids.

Dry powder extinguisher

Dry Powder

This fire extinguisher is colour-coded blue and is a multi-purpose fire extinguisher that can be used on Class A, B and C fires. The fire extinguisher works by 'knocking down' the flames and is very effective in putting out fires.

When used in some confined spaces a powder extinguisher could cause loss of visibility or aggravate breathing difficulties.  Your Fire Risk Assessment and Health and Safety Risk Assessment may need to take this into account.

Foam extinguisher


This fire extinguisher is colour-coded cream and is more versatile than water. It can be used for both Class A and B fires, but is not recommended for fires involving electricity. This extinguisher forms a blanket or film on the surface of a burning liquid.

Wet chemical extinguisher

Wet Chemical

This specialist fire extinguisher is colour-coded yellow and is used for Class F cooking oil or fat fires only.

Maintenance of Fire Safety Measures

All fire safety systems and equipment should be subject to a suitable and adequate programme of maintenance. This maintenance programme should be carried out in accordance with the relevant British Standard. This will normally involve much of the work being carried out by a 'competent person' (a person with the appropriate knowledge and training to carry out the task).

Many premises will be subject to specific maintenance requirements detailed in the legislation applying to that type of premises.

The Disability Discrimination Act introduced in 1995 sought to ensure that disabled employees, visitors, whatever their disability, should be treated as well as people without disabilities and according to their needs. It is therefore essential that disabled people are considered in any fire evacuation plan.