“How many fire extinguishers should a business have?” is a common question. In this article, we explain how you should decide how many fire extinguishers you should have.
As with everything in health and safety, you must carry out a risk assessment. A fire safety risk assessment will determine which fire-fighting control measures your business requires. All workplaces should have water extinguishers for general use. In addition, your fire risk assessment should identify ignition and fuel sources which will inform you of any additional types of extinguisher you need.
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 provides a formula for calculating the amount of Class A extinguishers. The method used is one 13A extinguisher covering 200 m2 of floor area.
If your business is spread over several floors there should be at least two fire extinguishers per level. However, if 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.
In our Fire Safety Courses, we talk about fire extinguishers in more detail.
What is a 13A extinguisher?
Fire extinguishers have a rating as well as a class. The label shows the extinguisher rating. The rating tells 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 in litres, and this denotes the amount of burning fuel they can put out, for instance, 55B is suitable for 55 litres of burning liquid. As a general rule of thumb, the larger the number, the larger the fire it will extinguish.
You should select the number of Class B, C, D or F fire extinguishers based on the type of fuel in your workplace. Also 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. Then select the type of extinguisher to suit the fuel. In an emergency, you may forget to isolate the equipment. Therefore it would be wise to choose an extinguisher that is suitable for an electrical fire. Carbon dioxide extinguishers are ideal for 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. If you use flammable liquids, you would not want only to supply Class A fire extinguishers. However, you could use Class B 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 offers two levels of fire courses, both of which offer advice and guidance on Fire Extinguishers.