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How to Use a Fire Extinguisher

Links to Fire Safety Sections

Section 1: Fire Extinguisher Guide
Section 2: Types of Fire Extinguisher
Section 3: How to use a Fire Extinguisher
Section 4: Positioning & Number Needed of Fire Extinguishers

It is essential that you and your staff know how to use a fire extinguisher correctly. If you are offered the chance to undergo training we would always recommend you jump at the chance, as it just may save yours as well as other peoples lives.

Even small fires are extremely dangerous. Always remember, IF IN DOUBT, GET OUT. If you are not confident or have any doubts regarding a fire, get out and stay out. Call the fire brigade immediately on 999.

When it comes to using a fire extinguisher effectively, simply remember the acronym PASS.

P - Pull the safety pin out at the top of the fire extinguisher in order to free the lever.

A - Aim the fire extinguisher hose or nozzle at the base of the fire (not the flames) and remember to stand around 8 feet away.

S - Squeeze the handle gently to release the fire fighting material.

S - Sweep the extinguisher hose or nozzle from side to side over the base of the fire until the fire is fully extinguished.

For fires involving electrical equipment always remember to use an extinguisher specifically designed for this purpose. CO2, Powder or Clean Agents being the most commonly used. CO2 extinguishers are designed to be the best to use on fires involving live electrical equipment.

Please note, that when using a CO2 extinguisher, be careful not to hold the swivel horn as this gets extremely cold as the gas is released and can result in your skin becoming frozen to the horn and burnt.

Many new extinguishers come with frost free horns, but if in doubt, we would still recommend not to hold the horn.

For fires involving cooking fats (Class F) you should ONLY use a wet chemical extinguisher. It is important to be trained in its use in order to use effectively.

For Class D fires involving metals you need specialist extinguishers that use a lance with a low velocity applicator in order to not spread the burning metals. It is essential to receive training for this type of extinguisher.

Fire Extinguisher Maintenance

All fire extinguishers require maintenance as they do not have an indefinite life span, even if they are never actually used.

They are prone to corrosion and loss of pressure, especially if they contain liquids.

Due to this they need regular checking and maintenance. In order to comply with the Regulatory Reform (Fire safety) Order 2005, your fire fighting equipment must be maintained in accordance with the recognized British Standard (5306 part 3). This states that an extinguisher must be serviced at least on an annual basis.

An annual service is normally enough unless you work in a high risk environment such as a marine location or fuel storage area.

Annual inspections should only be carried out by trained and qualified people. We would recommend using someone qualified from a BAFE approved company. You can find a list of approved companies at www.bafe.org.uk

To refurbish a fire extinguisher is a long and costly process which involves the extinguisher being removed and tested in a factory where replacement parts and re-pressurising takes place. At the prices we offer for extinguishers it is best to simply replace with new ones.

The old extinguishers can then be simply recycled or used to train existing staff in their proper use.

Monthly checking of Fire Extinguishers

You should carry out a visual check of your fire extinguishers on a monthly basis as this can help to save lives in the event of a fire and to comply with your legal duty.

This is a simple task and will not take up much of your time. The following should be checked.

1. Ensure your fire extinguishers are on their wall mounted brackets or in their appropriate stands and that access to them is unobstructed. Ensure safety signs are undamages, if they are peeling or worn, replace them immediately.
2. Check the pressure gauge. It should be in the green zone. If it is in the red then have it re-pressurised or replaced with a new one.
3. Check the safety pin is in place and that the seals are intact. If these are not present or damaged it may indicate that the unit has been used.
4. Check the extinguisher cylinder for any signs of damage such as rust or dents. If there is any sign of damage replace immediately. If the damage looks serous get a professional to safely remove the extinguisher to avoid risk of explosion.
5. Ensure all labelling is clear to read.

Record all inspections in your fire safety log book.

Safely Disposing of Fire Extinguishers

Fire extinguishers must be disposed of correctly. They are under pressure and any tampering with them can result in serious injury or death.

Small quantities of fire extinguishers can be disposed of at local authority amenity sites. For larger extinguishers always use a specialist contractor who has a licence to dispose of controlled waste.

Do not empty extinguishers down drains.

In some cases fire extinguishers can be recycled by specialist companies.