How Many Fire Extinguishers Are Required In A Business Premises?

Fire Safety By Matthew Coombes

The number of fire extinguishers that your business requires will depend on the type of work being done (including the equipment), the workplace layout, and any additional risks identified by your Fire Risk Assessment Document.

The type of work

The work that is conducted on site, and by extension the equipment used to complete it, are very important factors for determining how many fire extinguishers you will require.

There is an important distinction to be made between risk to life, and risk to property. A workplace such as a hospital may have persons that are asleep, less mobile, or with sensory impairments, this puts them at a higher risk of injury or losing their life. In the event of a fire, these persons may not be able to be evacuated, so there is a risk to their life. This may result in a requirement for more fire extinguishers, so you will often see more fire extinguishers in hospitals, hotels, hostels, and care homes than you do in factories, offices, and shopping centres.

Fire extinguishers have different classifications, which correspond to the type of fire that they can be used to put out. Different equipment and types of work can come with different risks, sometimes this can even just be how/where things are stored.

Classifications of extinguishers

Type of Extinguisher Classification of Extinguisher Material/Risk Example
Water Class A Wood, paper and textiles Paperwork in an office
Foam Class A and B Wood, paper and textiles, and flammable liquids Wood and woodworking acetone in a workshop
ABC Powder 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
CO2 Class B and Electrical Flammable liquids and Electrical equipment Computers, tills, fridges, freezers in a shop
Wet Chemical Class A and Class F Cooking oils and fats Deep fat fryer or shallow frying in a restaurant

Depending on the equipment and how it is used, you may need a combination of extinguishers. This may result in there needing to be more extinguishers of different types in different areas of your building. For example, if you have kitchens, a storage room and electrical equipment (such as a till or computer), you may need relevant fire extinguishers situated near to each risk that they’re for.

So, there may be a need for a Foam Extinguisher, Co2 Extinguisher and a Wet Chemical Extinguisher in one 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

On escape routes

Extinguishers should be situated on escape routes, near to the exits. They will either be on the inside of the door or the outside, depending on the type of extinguisher and the risks identified. For example, if you’ve identified that there’s a lot of electrical equipment on a floor, but no electrical equipment outside of the escape route/fire door, the fire extinguisher is likely best situated on the inside of the door.

On each floor

If your building spreads across multiple floors, extinguishers should be positioned in the same place on each floor where appropriate. This way, no matter which floor you are on, you know where to find the extinguisher.

Near to the risk

Extinguishers should be positioned near enough to risks that they can be obtained and used in an emergency situation, but not so close that they are likely to be engulfed by the flames immediately/quickly.

This may mean that you have lots of extinguishers on one floor, to tackle the relevant risks.

Situated together

Where possible, it is often best to keep extinguishers situated together. This way you can create a specific point which contains the fire-fighting equipment.

Distance to extinguishers

It is important to be able to reach an extinguisher quickly in an emergency situation. Therefore, it’s typically agreed that no person should need to travel more than 30 metres to reach a Class A or C Extinguisher, and no more than 10 metres to reach a Class B, Class F or electrical extinguisher.

This maximum distance will likely affect the number of extinguishers that you have on site.

BS 5306-8:2012

Before talking about British Standards documents you must understand that these documents are guidance. They’re created to provide advice to organisations that can help them to ensure that their management of fire safety is aligned with the Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order (2005) but they are not law.

BS 5306-8 suggests that all floors of an organisation should have fire extinguishers of Category A which have a combined fire extinguisher rating of 26A. Many fire extinguishers are now smaller to make them more portable, accessible and easier to use, so this may mean that to follow the guidance you would have to have two of the same class A water/foam extinguishers per floor, per location.

If you were to adopt this standard into your management of fire safety, this may mean that you have an extra extinguisher per floor/working area, so where you would previously have a water extinguisher and a Co2 extinguisher, it should now be 2 water extinguishers and a Co2 extinguisher.

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