- 1 How Many Fire Extinguishers Should A Business Have?
- 2 How can I determine the required number of Class A extinguishers?
- 3 What does a 13A extinguisher mean?
- 4 Classifications of extinguishers
- 5 The workplace layout
- 6 Since we have a significant amount of IT equipment, what should we do about extinguishers for electrical fires?
- 7 I might end up with various fire extinguishers, which could confuse my staff. Is it necessary to have a different extinguisher for each type of fire hazard?
How Many Fire Extinguishers Should A Business Have?
Many businesses often ask, “How many fire extinguishers are required in a business premises?” This article helps you figure out the appropriate number of fire extinguishers for your business.
Like all health and safety matters, it is essential to conduct a risk assessment. By assessing the risks related to fire safety, you can determine the necessary fire-fighting measures for your business. Every workplace should have water extinguishers available for general use. Additionally, your fire risk assessment will help identify potential sources of ignition and fuel, enabling you to determine if you need any additional types of extinguishers.
How can I determine the required number of Class A extinguishers?
The quantity of Class A extinguishers needed is determined by the guidance outlined in BS 5306: Fire Extinguishing Installations. This standard offers a formula for calculating the appropriate number of Class A extinguishers. The calculation method involves using one 13A extinguisher for every 200 m2 of floor area.
If your business operates on multiple floors, it is recommended to have a minimum of two fire extinguishers per level. However, if a floor measures less than 100m2, then having just one extinguisher is acceptable. If your premises are equipped with an automatic fire suppression system, you may be able to reduce the number of extinguishers required.
What does a 13A extinguisher mean?
Fire extinguishers are classified and rated based on their capabilities. The rating is displayed on the label, indicating the size of the fire they can effectively extinguish.
Class A fire extinguishers undergo testing by extinguishing a standard-sized wooden tower. The portion of the tower they can put out determines their rating. For example, a 13A extinguisher can extinguish 1.3 meters of the standard-sized fire. The “A” indicates that it is a class A extinguisher.
Ratings on Class B extinguishers are measured in litres, indicating the amount of burning fuel they can handle. For instance, a 55B extinguisher is suitable for extinguishing 55 litres of burning liquid. As a general guideline, the higher the number, the larger the fire the extinguisher can handle.
When selecting Class B, C, D, or F fire extinguishers, consider the type of fuel present in your workplace and the size of the fire you would expect to extinguish.
Classifications of extinguishers
|Type of Extinguisher
|Classification of Extinguisher
|Wood, paper and textiles
|Paperwork in an office
|Class A and B
|Wood, paper and textiles, and flammable liquids
|Wood and woodworking acetone in a workshop
|Class A, B, C and Electrical
|Flammable gas, electrical equipment and all of the above in A and B
|Oxygen cylinders for hospitals, cutting and welding equipment in a metalworks
|Class B and Electrical
|Flammable liquids and Electrical equipment
|Computers, tills, fridges, freezers in a shop
|Class A and Class F
|Cooking oils and fats
|Deep fat fryer or shallow frying in a restaurant
Based on the equipment and its usage, you might require a mix of extinguishers. This could lead to the need for multiple extinguishers of different types in various areas of your building. For instance, if you have kitchens, a storage room, and electrical equipment like a till or computer, you may need specific fire extinguishers placed near each corresponding risk.
Therefore, it could be necessary to have a Foam Extinguisher, CO2 Extinguisher, and Wet Chemical Extinguisher in a single area.
Each floor of your business may have different requirements for extinguishers, and this can mean that overall, there are less or more per floor.
The workplace layout
1. On escape routes
Extinguishers should be placed near the exits, along the escape routes. Their location, whether inside or outside of the door, depends on the type of extinguisher and identified risks. For example, if there is a significant amount of electrical equipment on a floor but none outside of the escape route or fire door, it is advisable to position the fire extinguisher inside the door.
2. On each floor
If your building has multiple floors, it is recommended to have extinguishers in consistent locations on every floor, when appropriate. This ensures that regardless of the floor, people know where to find the extinguisher.
3. Close to the risk
Extinguishers should be positioned in proximity to the risks they are intended to address, allowing for quick access and use in emergency situations. However, they should not be placed so close that they are immediately or rapidly engulfed by flames.
This may result in having multiple extinguishers on a single floor, addressing the relevant risks.
4. Situated together
Whenever possible, it is advantageous to keep extinguishers situated in close proximity to one another. This creates a designated area housing the fire-fighting equipment.
5. Distance to extinguishers
In emergency situations, it is crucial to reach an extinguisher promptly. Therefore, it is generally recommended that no one should have to travel more than 30 meters to access a Class A or C extinguisher, and no more than 10 meters to reach a Class B, Class F, or electrical extinguisher.
This maximum distance will likely impact the number of extinguishers needed on the premises.
Before discussing British Standards documents, it’s important to understand that these documents serve as guidance. They provide advice to organizations on how to ensure their fire safety management aligns with the Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order (2005), but they are not legally binding.
According to BS 5306-8, it is recommended that all floors of an organization have Category A fire extinguishers with a combined rating of 26A. Nowadays, many fire extinguishers are designed to be smaller, making them more portable, accessible, and user-friendly. This means that to adhere to the guidance, you may need to have two of the same class A water/foam extinguishers per floor and per location.
If you choose to implement this standard in your fire safety management, it may result in an additional extinguisher per floor or working area. For instance, if you previously had a water extinguisher and a CO2 extinguisher, you would now need to have two water extinguishers and a CO2 extinguisher.
Since we have a significant amount of IT equipment, what should we do about extinguishers for electrical fires?
The recommendation is to first shut off the power supply to electrical equipment before attempting to extinguish a fire. Afterwards, choose the appropriate type of extinguisher based on the fuel involved. In case of an emergency, there is a possibility of forgetting to isolate the equipment. Therefore, it is prudent to opt for an extinguisher specifically designed for electrical fires. Carbon dioxide extinguishers are well-suited for fires that occur with electrical equipment.
I might end up with various fire extinguishers, which could confuse my staff. Is it necessary to have a different extinguisher for each type of fire hazard?
Not necessarily. If you deal with flammable liquids, it wouldn’t be ideal to only provide Class A fire extinguishers. Instead, you could use Class B extinguishers, as they are suitable for both Class A and B fires.
If your fire risk assessment indicates a high level of risk or a complex situation, it might be beneficial to seek expert advice. Envesca has a team of fire safety consultants who can assist you with this matter.