Fire extinguishers are a regulatory office equipment . There are various types of extinguishers that modern offices are typically equipped with. This article will guide you through the many aspects of selecting fire extinguishers that are suitable specifically for your space.
What fire extinguishers do I need in my office?
Currently, the most common types of fire extinguishers used in modern offices are:
- Water-based extinguishers – for fires that involve wood, paper and a variety of carbonaceous materials,
- Carbon dioxide extinguishers – used in spaces where there is a possibility for fires involving live electrical equipment.
Water-based extinguishers the most commonly recommended choice for offices. Recently, they have replaced foam spray extinguishers which were especially popular in offices due to their small size and relatively high efficiency. Their foam compounds, however, often contained elements harmful to the environment. Therefore, water-based extinguishers are an efficient and a far more eco-friendly alternative.
Spray extinguishers are especially useful in offices equipped with live electrical equipment. They provide an additional level of safety as the extinguisher’s spray nozzle prevents a direct link between live electrical equipment and the extinguisher operator, which makes it far safer to operate in office environments.
For more specific information please refer to our fire safety legislation page.
Voltage vs. extinguishers
A regular office space may have very different fire safety needs than an office that comes with, for instance, plant rooms, electrical intake rooms, lift motor rooms, etc. Fire extinguisher needs depend on the specifications of a particular space. Higher voltage requires larger, more powerful extinguishers. Such rooms will usually be equipped with larger 5kg carbon dioxide extinguishers as the risk level is higher and the equipment is running on 415 volts rather than 230 volts.
What about powder extinguishers?
Powder extinguishers are not a viable option for offices and should never be positioned inside buildings. Their use in confined spaces can severely affect breathing and reduce visibility. These extinguishers should only be used for out-door locations such as petrol stations or larger open-plan boiler rooms.
How many extinguishers does my office need?
The number of fire extinguishers that a space needs depends on a variety of factors, such as: types of fire extinguishers used, area of the office, the presence of any elements that increase the risk of fires occurring (kitchen equipment, high voltage devices, etc.).
In terms of the most commonly used extinguishers, their recommended numbers are calculated as follows:
- Carbon dioxide extinguishers are provided according to the risks in the office.
- Water-based extinguishers are provided according to the size of the premises and the risks present.
What are the general rules as to the number and placement of fire extinguishers in your office?
- There should be a minimum of two water extinguishers on any storey of a building. These two extinguishers will cover an area up to 400m² subject to their fire rating being suitable.
- The closest water fire extinguisher should be at most 30 metres away from any point within the building.
- Extinguishers for specific risks such as electrical risks or fat fryers should be located within 10 metres of the risk.
Need help assessing the needs of your space? Our BAFE registered and trained engineers can carry out a free survey of your premises and they will advise you on the best cover to give you peace of mind.
Where should my office extinguishers be located?
The location of fire extinguishers in your office is of crucial importance. Each office should have designated fire points. The fire points are typically located next to exits and fire alarm manual call points. We recommend that, depending on the specific needs of your space, each fire point is equipped with a water spray fire extinguisher and a 2kg carbon dioxide fire extinguisher (in accordance with British Standards). All extinguishers should have an identification sign fixed above them. Another essential element of fire-proofing your office is making sure that the extinguishers are properly placed/mounted. We recommend that they are either fitted to a wall bracket or located on a suitable floor stand.
The positioning of extinguishers in a building is of strategic importance. The purpose of placing fire points and fire alarm call points next to exits is to allow your employees to pass by a fire point in the event of a fire. As they are making their way out of the building, they do not need to engage in any additional and potentially risky actions in order to find the fire alarm call point, as they will conveniently be passing by it on their way out. At that moment, after activating the fire alarm, they may also decide whether to take an extinguisher, which is already available at that location, and deal with the fire, or carry on out of the building. Employees, who may be required to use fire extinguishers, should be extinguisher-trained.
Additional extinguishers may also be located around the office to protect specific higher risk areas such as photocopiers, printers and kitchenette areas.
Should my fire extinguishers be fitted on stands or wall brackets?
The main purpose of properly placing fire extinguishers on stands or wall brackets is to protect them from being moved around and potentially damaged. Either option is acceptable as both stands and wall brackets provide that level of protection. Identification signs should be affixed above the extinguisher.
Can we buy and install fire extinguishers ourselves?
You may choose to purchase fire extinguishers online and install them yourself, however, regardless of how your extinguishers have been purchased, they must always be commissioned and certified on site. That will require a visit from an accredited fire safety engineer who will remove transport tags and inspect the extinguishers.
Fire extinguishers should be serviced annually. This servicing must be carried out by a competent person. Failure to have extinguishers serviced correctly might affect your insurance cover.
How often do extinguishers need replacing?
If your extinguishers have not been damaged in any way, they should be replaced periodically – either by renovation or replacement. The life span of fire extinguishers depends on their type. Most water, foam and powder extinguishers will need to be replaced every 5 years, while carbon extinguishers should be replaced every 10 years.
Does my office kitchen require a fire blanket?
Larger kitchens with cookers, fat fryers and microwave ovens should be fitted with a fire blanket for maximum fire safety. However, many smaller offices have a small kitchenette, rather than a proper kitchen, which tend to be more of a beverage area. They should be equipped with a carbon dioxide extinguisher in order to protect the electrical equipment. However, if there is no microwave or cooker, then a fire blanket is usually not required.
Our BAFE qualified engineers can carry out a site survey and provide you with more specific and accurate advice on fire safety measures recommended for your space. Contact us for a free survey and advice on how to keep your staff and workplace safe.
Check out more of our office fire safety guides below: