A fire in the workplace is something that can happen to business of every sort and has the potential to injuries employees, destroy property, and even cause accidental deaths if the situation isn’t handled properly. Fires can start from relatively surprising places, like electrical faults with computers, as well as everyday activities going wrong, like fires in a kitchen at work.
Because of the unpredictable nature of fires, it’s imperative that all businesses of any size have a fire safety policy to ensure any fire is correctly handled to minimise any risk. An important piece of equipment that should be present in every workplace is a fire extinguisher, which helps prevent small fires from getting out of hand and should be readily available to staff in case of a fire related emergency.
There are different fire extinguisher types available in order to tackle different types of fire, so it’s important to know how to use each type of fire extinguisher, particularly if you're a fire safety officer at your workplace. Using the wrong type of fire extinguisher on the wrong fire can be ineffective and even dangerous.
Fire safety training, such as Virtual College's Fire Safety e-learning course, should be made available to all employees, covering key areas such as recognising fire hazards, how to safely escape from a building and knowing how to use a fire extinguisher.
Before understanding which fire extinguisher is appropriate for differing scenarios, you need to know the different type of fire which can occur. Fires are classified into six categories, and there are different corresponding fire extinguisher classes too. The fire types are:
Depending on the type of fire you encounter, you will need to use a specific type of fire extinguisher designed to effectively put it out. This is an important factor to consider when deciding your fire safety policy, as someone who is trained or qualified will need to perform a risk assessment in regards to what possible types of fire are likely to occur in your workplace and what the necessary fire extinguishers would be. You only need to have the relevant fire extinguishers on the premises as its unlikely most businesses will encounter every type of fire. For example, an office is incredibly unlikely to suffer a fire involving flammable metals and may not regularly contain flammable liquids.
Below is a list of the different fire extinguisher types available, the colour coded label which should be visible on the front of the fire extinguisher, and when they should be used:
There are also specialist and alternative versions of both the dry powder and water fire extinguishers which are available to tackle specific types of fire. These would be raised if relevant when deciding upon your fire safety policy by the qualified party assessing the fire risks within your workplace.
When tackling fires in the workplace, it’s important to know which other tools are available to use outside of just fire extinguishers. Having a comprehensive knowledge of fire safety is the key efficiently and effectively dealing with fires before they escalate. Alternative fire safety equipment includes:
For more information about fire safety in the workplace, check out Virtual College's Fire Safety e-learning course here. This CPD accredited course covers all the basics of fire safety at work and is suitable for almost anyone to arm them with the right knowledge around how to tackle small fires.