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Fire Extinguishers

19 May 2023

You should  only ever attempt to fight a fire with the Fire Extinguisher if it is safe to do so. The purpose of Fire Extinguishers is not to save the property. Their purpose is to assist people escape the fire and save lives. Never use Fire Extinguishers if not trained to do so.

The workplace must be equipped with appropriate fire extinguishers. The type, number and exact location of the Fire Extinguishers will depend on the Fire Risk Assessment and the risk of fire and type of fire that might develop. Fire Extinguishers are one of the most common types of fire fighting equipment. They are, however, not the only fire fighting equipment. Other examples of firefighting equipment are fire blankets, fire hose reels, sprinkler systems, etc.

Firefighting equipment must be in place for employees to use, without exposing themselves to danger, to extinguish a fire in its early stages. All firefighting equipment provided and put in place must be suitable for the risks and all staff must be trained in its proper use.

Fire safety is extremely important. Fire poses a serious threat to the safety of employees and members of the public. The Health and Safety Authority will issue notices to any business that falls short of the requirements. Employers should make every effort to abide by the law. They must assess risks and provide access to training which informs on the importance of fire safety. You can read more about the importance of fire safety in our article Fire Safety and Why is it Important.


Extinguishing Fires

To extinguish a fire, one or more of the elements in the fire triangle has to be removed or reduced to a level where it will no longer support combustion. Most Fire Extinguishers work by smothering or cooling the fire (or a combination of both methods). Employers and those responsible for premises must provide appropriate firefighting equipment. In addition, they must make sure sufficient people are trained in its use. To learn more about fire safety, please check out our Fire Safety Awareness fully online course.

All Fire Extinguishers must have instructions for use attached on the cylinder. The general advice, however, for operating a Fire Extinguisher can be remembered using the acronym PASS.

In short, the acronym stands for:

  • Pull – Pull the pin.
  • Aim – Aim low, pointing the extinguisher (nozzle, horn or hose) at the base of the flames.
  • Squeeze – Squeeze the handle until the extinguisher discharges.
  • Sweep – Sweep from side to side at the base of the fire until it appears to be out. Watch the area. If the fire reignites, repeat steps 2 to 4.

Remember – the fire extinguisher must be large enough to put out the fire. The majority of portable extinguishers discharge completely in as few as eight seconds.


Classes of Fire

How a fire should be extinguished depends on what type of material is burning. Therefore it is important to know the different types of fire so they can be extinguished safely. The types of fire are split into six different classes:

  • Class A – Fires involving wood, paper and textiles.
  • Class B – Fires involving flammable liquids, petrol, oil, alcohol, and organic solvents.
  • Class C – Fires involving flammable gases, methane, propane, hydrogen, acetylene, butane.
  • Class D – Fires involving metals.
  • Electrical – Fires involving electrical equipment.
  • Class F – Fires involving cooking oils such as deep fat fryers.


Commonly Used Fire Extinguishers

Fire extinguishers are almost always red with a coloured label to indicate its type. Some fire extinguishers are silver in colour. All fire extinguishers must have a sign giving details of its type and use.

Types of Fire Extinguishers:

  • RED LABEL – Water Extinguishers. Only suitable for use on solid materials such as wood, paper, straw, textiles, coal, etc. Some water extinguishers contain additives to make them more effective. They should NEVER be used on electrical equipment, cooking oil or fat pan fires and flammable metal fires.
  • CREAM LABEL – Foam Extinguishers. They can be used on flammable liquids and the same type of fires that water extinguishers can be used on. They are particularly suitable for petrol and diesel fires. They should never, however, be used on cooking oil, fat pan fires or flammable metal fires and electrical equipment.
  • BLACK LABEL – CO2 (carbon dioxide) Extinguishers. CO2 Extinguishers are suitable for fires involving electrical equipment. They can be also used on flammable liquids, e.g., paint, petrol, etc. They should never be used on cooking oil, fat pan fires or flammable metal fires and confined spaces.
  • BLUE LABEL – Dry Powder Extinguisher. They can be used on most types of fire, including fires on electrical equipment. They should not be used on cooking oil, fat pan fires and flammable metal fires.
  • YELLOW LABEL – Wet Chemical Extinguishers. The Wet Chemical Extinguisher is the only extinguisher that can be used on cooking oils and fats. They should never be used on petrol, spirits or mineral oils.
  • Fire Blankets – Fire blankets are made of a fire retardant material and are used to smother small fires. They are most commonly found in kitchens. They are used by placing the blanket over the fire. Whilst placing the blanket on the fire, the hands should be protected by making sure the blanket covers them. Once the blanket covers the fire, it should remain in place for at least 30 minutes.


Using a Fire Extinguisher

You should  only ever attempt to fight a fire with the Fire Extinguisher if it is safe to do so.

  • You should only fight a fire if:
  • Someone has raised the alarm.
  • The emergency services have been called.
  • The correct type of extinguisher is available.
  • You are competent and have been trained to use the extinguisher.
  • A safe escape route is available.
  • The fire is smaller than a waste paper bin.

Never fight a fire if:

  • The room is filling with smoke or the fire is spreading.
  • Other hazards are present (such as chemicals or gas cylinders).
  • The fire is not reducing or more than one extinguisher is required.


Online Health and Safety Training

Proactive Health and Safety training is critical to ensure a safe workplace. An effective training program can reduce the number of worker injuries and deaths. It can also reduce instances of property damage, legal liability, illnesses, and missed time from work.

Health and Safety training helps establish a culture in which employees themselves help promote proper safety procedures while on the job. It is important that new employees be properly trained and embrace the importance of workplace safety. The role of training in developing and maintaining effective hazard control activities is a proven and successful method of intervention.

This is why we have established Myelearsafety school. We pride ourselves in how we guide, support and mentor our students. They receive support throughout their learning experience and into their working lives. Our staff have extensive training experience and also have many years industry experience. We understand the challenges that exist within Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety. Our priority is to ensure that all learners are fully prepared to differentiate themselves in the workplace after completing our Health and Safety courses.

Myelearnsafety offers fully online Health and Safety courses.

To find out more, please check our Courses page.

Alternatively, should you need any additional information, please do not hesitate to let us know via email