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7 Tips On How To Use A Fire Extinguisher In The Workplace

How To Use A Fire Extinguisher

We often see fire extinguishers in commercial buildings and offices –but if a fire broke out in your workplace, would you know how to use a fire extinguisher? If you don’t, then this could have unthinkable consequences.

At PARRS, we value fire safety and provide businesses with a wide range of commercial equipment. That’s why we’ve put together a comprehensive guide on how to use a fire extinguisher in the workplace, so you have the knowledge you need to protect your people and your property.

 From fire extinguisher usage to storage and aftercare, our guide explains all.

Table of contents 

  1. Types of fire extinguishers
  2. Fire extinguisher use 
  3. Fire classes
  4. How to use a fire extinguisher 
  5. Fire extinguisher safety tips 
  6. Fire extinguisher care 
  7. Fire extinguisher location

What are the types of fire extinguishers?

There are six main types of fire extinguishers that are suitable for extinguishing certain types of fires. These are: 

Water fire extinguishers 

AFFF foam extinguishers

Carbon Dioxide (CO2) extinguishers

ABC Powder extinguishers

Water mist extinguishers 

Wet chemical extinguishers 

Regardless of the type of premises you work in, it’s crucial to understand the types of fire extinguishers and the scenarios they’re often used for (we’ll discuss the various fire types and their properties further down). 

Knowing this information will also inform your decision on the best fire safety equipment for your business.

Fire extinguisher

Water Fire Extinguishers 

These fire extinguishers create a cooling effect and prevent re-ignition, and they work by spraying a jet of water at a fire. 

They’re suitable for tackling fires on wood, paper, fabrics, and other solid materials. Identifiable by the Red ‘WATER’ label printed across the extinguisher, these extinguishers are predominantly red. However, you may want to buy a  more minimalistic silver model if you work in a sophisticated space such as a hotel or contemporary office. 

Can be used on: Class A fires

AFFF Foam Extinguishers

AFFF Foam Fire Extinguishers, also known as Aqueous Film Forming Foams, are suited to fight solids that are burning, such as wood (class A), and also petrol and volatile liquids (class B)

They’re designed to smother burning materials in a cooling blanket effect which prevents re-ignition.

AFFF Foam extinguishers can be identified by their cream label with ‘FOAM’ lettering. 

Can be used on: Class A and B fires

CO2 Fire Extinguishers 

Easily identifiable by their black label, CO2 fire extinguishers are designed to put out flammable liquid fires, but they can also extinguish electrical hazards.

They don’t leave any harmful residue and contain pure carbon dioxide. You’ll often find them in hospitals, offices and schools, among other spaces. 

Can be used on: Class B fires 

ABC Powder Extinguishers

ABC powder and dry powder extinguishers are often interchangeable for fires with ordinary combustibles, energised electrical equipment, and flammable liquids. 

They can be identified by their blue ‘POWDER’ label and are often suited to businesses using chemical processes or garage forecourts.

Please note, though, that there’s the risk of inhalation when operating a powder fire extinguisher in enclosed spaces. Inhalation can cause mild irritation to the nose, throat, and lungs, and can result in shortness of breath and coughing. Therefore, you should use powder fire extinguishers with care and only if specified as the most appropriate choice.

Can be used on: Class A, B and C fires. 

Water Mist Extinguishers

Water mist extinguishers cool a fire’s temperature to below combustion level with a mist curtain, which cuts off the fire’s oxygen supply. 

The mist droplets of the extinguisher can be identified by their red ‘WATER MIST’ label and shouldn’t be confused with the red label of a water fire extinguisher. 

Can be used on: Class A + F fires 

Wet Chemical Extinguisher

Wet chemical extinguishers are ideal for kitchens, as they can extinguish cooking fires more efficiently than water, foam, CO2, and powder extinguishers. 

Identifiable through their yellow ‘WET CHEMICAL’ label, they  attack a fire’s flames of the fire in multiple ways:

  1. The mist cools the temperature of the fire to eliminate any spreading. 
  2. The potassium salts within the wet chemical extinguisher react with the oils of the cooking fire. This coats the surface of the oil in a soapy foam that is non-combustible in a process called saponification. 

Can be used on: Class A +  F fires

Which fire extinguisher should I use? 

Different types of fire require different extinguishers to eliminate the flames effectively and safely, hence why different types of fire are classified. 

Next, we’ll explain these different types of fire and their properties and highlight the fire safety equipment that can be used to extinguish them.

Which fire extinguisher should I use?

What are the classes of fire? 

Fire Class Properties of fire Example of fire Acceptable extinguishers
Class A Fire Burning flammable solids, Carbon-based materialsPaper , wood and textilesWaterWater Mist FoamFoam Mist Powder
Class B FireBurning flammable liquids Paint and petrol FoamFoam MistCO2Powder
Class C FireBurning flammable gasesButane and propanePowder
Class D Fire Burning flammable metals Magnesium or LithiumPowder 
Electrical FireFires with electrical equipment Electrical goods Water Mist CO2Powder
Class F Fire Burning cooking oils or fat. Cooking oil Water Mist Wet Chemical

How to use a fire extinguisher 

Knowing how to use a fire extinguisher is a skill that every trained staff member should have. 

Now you know which type of extinguishers should be used to tackle which type of fire, the next step is to understand how to use a fire extinguisher

Fire extinguisher in use

How do you use a fire extinguisher?

When operating a fire extinguisher, you should remember the acronym PASS. This stands for: 

Pull (Pin) 

Pull the pin from the extinguisher. The pin should be located at the top and will break the seal. This pin is designed to stop the extinguisher’s handle from being pressed when not in use and accidentally operating in a non-emergency situation. Once you’ve pulled the pin, you need to test the extinguisher to make sure it works and understand how fast and far the stream travels. 

Aim 

Standing at a safe distance to the fire, you should make sure the nozzle is pointing forwards and aim towards the base of the fire. You can progress to the next stage once you have a good aim on the fire and a firm hold of the extinguisher outlet. 

Squeeze 

Squeeze the handles of the extinguisher together whilst keeping a safe distance from the fire. This action will engage the agent inside the device. You should let go of the handles to stop the agent’s release. 

Sweep 

You should then sweep the nozzle from side to side upon your approach to the fire. Make sure you direct the extinguishing agent at the base of the flames, as doing so will give you the best chance of extinguishing the fire. 

If you extinguish a fire, you should then examine the area for any smouldering hot spots that could reignite and fuel the fire. If the fire re-starts repeat the PASS process.

PASS Fire Extinguisher method

Fire extinguisher safety tips

  • Ensure that you know where the nearest fire extinguisher is in your workplace or building. Learning this information will save valuable time if you ever need to use it in an emergency. 
  • If you’re an employer, you must display fire safety signs around the premises to highlight where the nearest fire fighting equipment is located. 
  • Familiarise yourself with the instructions of the specific fire extinguisher in your building. 
  • Know when to leave the building during a fire. 
  • Don’t use a fire extinguisher if the safety pin’s been tampered with. 

What to do with a fire extinguisher once it’s been used?

Fire extinguishers are classified as hazardous waste, therefore the best way to dispose of your used or partially used fire extinguisher is by contacting your local refuse recycling centre. 

These bodies will ensure that your extinguisher is disposed of in a safe, environmentally-friendly way. 

Squeezing fire extinguisher

How long do fire extinguishers last?

Fire extinguishers don’t necessarily have a strict expiration date, but employers should replace disposable fire extinguishers every 12 years after the manufacture date printed on the cylinder body. Fire wardens should check fire extinguishers weekly to ensure they’re in good working condition. 

You should look out for the below when inspecting your fire extinguisher:

  • The locking pin should be secure and in place. 
  • The handle shouldn’t be wobbly or broken.
  • The nozzle or hose should be in complete working order and not cracked or blocked. 

Where should a fire extinguisher be located?

You should place your fire extinguisher in a location where it can be seen by anyone who’s following a fire escape route. 

It should be hung on a wall or placed onto a specific extinguisher stand to avoid direct contact with the floor. 

Fire extinguisher hose

Buy fire extinguishers at PARRS today 

Now that you know how to use a fire extinguisher in your workplace, make sure you’re ready to protect your staff and your business with our range of fire extinguishers and fire safety equipment

Whether you’re looking for foam fire extinguishers or fire buckets and sand, we have something to help you combat fires in the workplace. At PARRS, you’ll also find fire action notices, notices that locate fire fighting equipment and signs that show employees and members of the public where the closest fire exits are. 

For 135 years, PARRS has supplied commercial equipment to a large range of industries to help improve efficiency, safety and operations. Fire safety within the workplace is vital and if neglected can have serious consequences that result in loss of life. Ensure that your employees and working environment are safe and equip areas with the relevant fire safety supplies from PARRS. 

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