The LWF Blog

Facilities Management & Fire Safety – Fire Extinguisher Standards – Part 8

February 24, 2017 12:40 pm

In this blog series for those who work in Facilities Management and have a responsibility for Fire Safety, we have been looking at Fire Extinguishers, the various types in terms of appropriate and safe usage. In Part 8 we will discuss the relevant standards affecting fire extinguishers. Any guidance documents referred to are correct as per January 2017.


The standards for manufacturers of fire extinguishers fall under BS EN 3 – a group of European standards which govern the production of such devices. Extinguishers which are produced as per this directive will be usually red in colour with a coloured band (which covers not more than 10% of the body area) to indicate the type of extinguisher.


In the UK, BS 7863 is a standard which provides further recommendations for the size and placement of the coloured bands, currently it specifies between 3 and 5 per cent of the extinguisher body be coloured in order to indicate the canister contents.


The traditional colours to indicate extinguisher contents are red for water, pale cream for foam, blue for powder and black for carbon dioxide. As there is not a firm standard on which colours must be used, you might find different manufacturers employ different methods of colour indication.


Until the European Standards were formalised in the UK, fire extinguishers were produced in accordance with BS 5423 which was withdrawn in 1997. Under the terms of the protocol, extinguishers could be coded by the entire body of the canister being coloured to indicate the contents, or the banding method now used as part of the European standards was an option too. Most manufacturers preferred the first option and so when the EU directive came in, a change was required.

Of course, a certain amount of confusion arose as the new colour coding system was implemented and a period of change which involved the use of both types of extinguisher ensued, as the rule did not state that the old extinguishers had to be removed and replaced before their life cycle indicated. Whilst it is unlikely that you might see any of the old coloured extinguishers, a knowledge of how they were coloured to indicate contents might still be useful.


While the manufacturers must adhere to the EU standards if they wish to receive certification, such as the BSI Kitemarking accreditation, such requirements do not extend to the users of fire extinguishers. There are still manufacturers who produce fire extinguishers which do not have the appearance laid out in BS EN 3, but instead produce stainless steel canisters, for instance.


When considering the use of non-standard finish extinguishers, the quality should be checked, however, and the British Approvals for Fire Equipment organisation (BAFE) published a list of extinguishers which have been independently tested in accordance with a satisfactory quality assurance scheme. In addition, the Loss Prevention Certification Board (LPCB) also produce a list of extinguishers which are tested to BS EN 3 or other appropriate standards.


In Part 9 of this series, we will look at how extinguishers should be sited within your premises. In the meantime, if you have any queries about your own facilities or wish to discuss this blog series, please contact Peter Gyere in the first instance on 0208 668 8663.


Lawrence Webster Forrest is a fire engineering consultancy based in Surrey with over 25 years’ experience, which provides a wide range of consultancy services to professionals involved in the design, development and construction and operation of buildings.


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