How to Distinguish the Right Fire Extinguishers

How to Distinguish the Right Fire Extinguishers

They are one of the key tools in fire safety and something you will find in every workplace across the country – the fire extinguisher. But if you are responsible for fire safety at your firm, are you sure you have the right ones to tackle any blaze which might break out at your premises?

There are actually five main types of fire extinguisher, each designed to cope with a specific fire risk, although some of them can be used to tackle more than one type of fire.

So, it is important you identify which type of extinguishers would be best suited to tackle the sort of fire which could break out in your workplace.



This type of extinguishers is best for fires which involve common hazards, such as wood, straw, paper and coal.

Danger:  You will put yourself (and others) at risk of an electric shock if you use a water fire extinguisher on an electrical fire.



While still suitable to tackle the sort of incidents outlined above, foam extinguishers can be used to tackle fires involving flammable liquids such as petrol and paints.

Danger:  Foam fire extinguishers have a strong chemical composition so can be dangerous in certain environments, especially near children and the elderly. 



Carbon dioxide fire extinguishers can be used for electrical hazards, while also being suitable to tackle fires involving flammable liquids.

Danger: CO2 fire extinguishers starve a fire of oxygen, but in limited spaces they will also cause breathing problems as they reduce the amount of oxygen available. They should never be used to put out fat or cooking oil fires.



Powder fire extinguishers are suitable for many different types of fire ranging from flammable liquids, gas or electrical to the more common hazards usually tackled by water extinguishers.

Danger: Powder fire extinguishers can suffocate a fire, however, if the fire is not 100% extinguished it could reignite. You should not use this type of extinguisher in a confined space due to possible inhalation. The powder can also damage soft furnishings and computer equipment.



These extinguishers are designed specifically for fires involving cooking oil and fat but are also effective with fires involving more common hazards such as wood and paper.

Danger: The chemicals contained in this type of fire extinguisher are dangerous, so should not be kept near children and the elderly.


Each fire extinguisher is rated for the types of fires it’s effective in putting out. So have you got the right ones for the unique risks of your business?

And do you know how many you need? In general, if the risk is low in your workplace, every employee should be within 30 metres of an extinguisher, with the best places for them at exit doors and stairways.

Staff should also be trained in the use of the extinguishers, they need to be checked regularly and they also should be tested or serviced at least once a year.

Bear in mind, that the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 made business owners and managers responsible for carrying out a fire safety risk assessment and implementing and maintaining a fire management plan.

Do you need some help and advice with fire safety in your workplace, and specifically with the use and maintenance of fire extinguishers? Why not book a Practical Extinguisher Course with one of our BAFE qualified extinguisher engineers?

Call Mr Fire Safety on 01743 510 236