The Office Safety Company

Fire Safety

If a fire starts in the office environment, the usual policy is to get everyone out as quickly as possible and call the fire brigade.

However there may be times when a fire is discovered at an early stage and is considered controllable. In such a situation an attempt to extinguish the fire using fire extinguishing equipment should only be made if:

  • Sufficient training has been provided on using fire extinguishers
  • An escape route has been established

However fires can spread very quickly and if the situation escalates and becomes uncontrollable then it must be abandoned immediately.

Choosing extinguishers

It is essential that every fire extinguisher on site conforms to the appropriate British Standard i.e. it must carry the kite mark or the special BAFE mark.

Where to site your extinguishers

Fire extinguishers should be bracket or stand mounted:

  • Where they can be reached quickly (staff should be no more than 30 metres away from a fire extinguisher)
  • Preferably on an escape route near to alarm points
  • Where they are clearly visible i.e. not hidden behind doors or furniture
  • Fixed to the wall at a height where it can be reached (up to 4 kg - 1.5m from the floor, more than 4kg at about 1m from the floor).
  • Where they are accessible at all times. (i.e. not used as door props)
  • Away from any heat source (e.g. radiators, kettles, cookers etc.)

Maintenance by a competent person

As pressurised vessels, fire extinguishers themselves carry potential risks. It also may be the difference between life and death if fire extinguishers work when needed. It is strongly advised that all fire extinguishers are properly serviced by a company registered with The British Approvals for Fire Equipment (BAFE) 48a Eden Street, Kingston upon Thames, Surrey, KT1 1EE
Tel: 020 8541 1950

This chart shows a typical maintenance programme.

Extinguisher type Basic service Extended service Overhaul & recharge
Water & foam Annually 5 yearly
Powder Annually 5 yearly
CO2 Annually 5 yearly 10 yearly

Basic inspection by the user

Instructions on fire extinguisher self-maintenance should be provided by the manufacturer. If an extinguisher has been used completely or partially, it must be recharged according to the manufacturers’ instructions. In addition The Home Office booklet [Fire Safety: An Employer’s Guide][1] issued for the Fire Precautions (Workplace) Regulations states:

Good practice is to check for correct installation and apparent function on a weekly basis.

Types of extinguisher

In office environments there are four main types of extinguisher. They are colour coded so that you can identify them quickly and use the right extinguisher for the right purpose.

  • Water (Red) — For use on solids only such as wood, plastics. Extinguishes by cooling. Not safe on petrol / oil fires + not to be used near electrical equipment.
  • Dry Powder (Blue or Red with a Blue strip) — Can be used on solids such as wood, plastics + liquids such as petrol / paints. Safe to use near electrical appliances. Extinguishes by smothering the flames. Does not cool very well.
  • Foam (Cream or Red with a cream strip) — Can be used on solids such as wood, plastics + liquids such as petrol / paints. Safe to use near electrical appliances. Extinguishes by smothering liquids with film or cooling and smothering solids.
  • CO2 (Black or Red with a Black strip) — Suitable mostly for liquids only such as petrol / paints. Safe to use near electrical appliances. Extinguishes by displacing oxygen. Does not cool and not suitable for solids.
  • Fire Blanket — Very effective at smothering the fire and denying it oxygen but has to cover entire burning areas. Good for intense but localised areas such as chip fat fires.

Number of fire extinguishers required

The following i

Disclaimer: The Office Safety Company have provided the ‘Quick Guides’ on the basis that the content and advice contained within these documents is to the best of our knowledge accurate at the time of publication. The Office Safety Company does not accept any liability for the accuracy of the information provided in the ‘Quick Guides’.