According to the European standard BS EN 3, fire extinguishers in the United Kingdom as all throughout Europe are red RAL 3000. They then feature a band or circle of a second colour covering between 5–10% of the surface area of the extinguisher indicates the contents.
Before 1997, under the old British Standard, the entire body of the fire extinguisher was colour coded according to the type of extinguishing agent.
The UK recognises six fire classes under the EN 3 regulations:
- Class A fires involve organic solids such as paper and wood.
- Class B fires involve flammable or combustible liquids, including petrol, grease, and oil.
- Class C fires involve flammable gases.
- Class D fires involve combustible metals.
- Class E fires involve electrical equipment/appliances* (discontinued – see note below)
- Class F fires involve cooking fat and oil.
*Class E has been discontinued, but covered fires involving electrical appliances. This is no longer used on the basis that, when the power supply is turned off, an electrical fire can fall into any of the remaining five categories. However there is an additional feature requiring special testing (35 kV dielectric test per EN 3-7:2004). A powder or CO2 extinguisher will bear an electrical pictogram as standard signifying that it can be used on live electrical fires (given the symbol E). If a water-based extinguisher has passed the 35 kV test it will also bear the same electrical pictogram – however, any water-based extinguisher is only recommended for inadvertent use on electrical fires.
Colour codes and uses
To help you identify the use of a fire extinguisher, you can use this table based on the BS EN 3 regulations;
|Type||Old code||BS EN 3 colour code||Fire classes
(brackets denote sometimes applicable)
|Water||Signal red||Signal red||A|
|Foam||Cream||Red with a cream panel above the operating instructions||A||B|
|Dry powder||French blue||Red with a blue panel above the operating instructions||(A)||B||C||E|
|Carbon dioxide, CO2||Black||Red with a black panel above the operating instructions||B||E|
|Wet chemical||N/A||Red with a canary yellow panel above the operating instructions||A||(B)||F|
|Class D powder||French blue||Red with a blue panel above the operating instructions||D|
|Halon 1211/BCF||Emerald green||No longer in general use||A||B||E|
All fire extinguishers under the EN 3 regulations have an agreed range of iconography to help you identify the suitability of an extinguisher. These are as follows and relate direct to the table above;
Things to remember
Important things to remember when choosing your fire extinguisher are;
- Is the fire extinguisher I’m choosing based on price, or on classification of fire?
- Where there are multiple choices such as dry powder or foam, which one might be the most suitable to prevent unnecessary damage, for instance?
- Have I set up a process to check and service the extinguishers (not all extinguishers are serviceable)?
- Am I, or any else, trained to use it correctly?
- When positioning it, is it easy to reach in an emergency?
This is not an exhaustive list, and because we know you’ll have further questions, please contact us directly before or after purchasing. You can call us on 01763 274185, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.