Whatever your business, fire extinguishers should be part of your standard safety equipment. While they’re not intended to tackle large blazes, extinguishers can buy precious time and aid your escape during a fire emergency. In the hands of trained personnel, they can also put out small, manageable fires, as long as there’s no risk to the user and an exit route remains clear.

But with eight extinguisher types to choose from, fire safety isn’t always straightforward. Ensure your kit and capabilities are right for the job by asking four fundamental questions.

  1. Do you have the right training?

Fire extinguishers should only be used by trained and capable employees, often designated as fire marshals. Fire marshals should assess each situation, only tackling a fire if they feel safe to do so.

The following P.A.S.S. technique should be followed:

  • Pull the pin from the top of the extinguisher to activate it
  • Aim the extinguisher at the base of the fire to fight it
  • Squeeze the handle slowly – if you do it too quickly, the shock and speed of diffusion could cause your hand to freeze to the tube
  • Sweep from side to side at the base of the fire
  1. Have you got the correct extinguishers for your site?

There are eight different types of extinguishers, each designed to put out a different type of fire:

  • Water
  • Water Mist
  • Water Spray
  • Foam
  • Dry Powder – Standard
  • Dry Powder – Specialist
  • Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
  • Wet Chemical

There are six classes of fire: Class A, Class B, Class C, Class D, Electrical and Class F:

  • Class A fires – combustible materials: caused by flammable solids, such as wood, paper and fabric
  • Class B fires – flammable liquids: such as petrol, turpentine or paint
  • Class C fires – flammable gases: like hydrogen, butane or methane
  • Class D fires – combustible metals: chemicals such as magnesium, aluminium or potassium
  • Electrical fires – electrical equipment: once the electrical item is removed, the fire changes class
  • Class F fires – cooking oils: typically a chip pan fire

There is no single extinguisher type that works on all classes of fire, so it’s essential you have the right types of fire extinguishers for possible incidents on your premises.

  1. Are your fire extinguishers properly maintained?

It’s important you have fire extinguishers serviced on an annual basis or disposable extinguishers replaced annually. Monthly visual checks should be conducted to ensure a fire extinguisher:

  • Is correctly located
  • Is accessible
  • Is fully charged
  • Has both the pin and seal in place
  • Has no visible damage
  • Has a nozzle that’s free from blockages
  1. Are your extinguishers recharged and ready for next time?

Whether a small amount has been accidentally discharged or actively used to fight a small fire, always top up your fire extinguisher so it’s ready for future use.