Fire Extinguishers - Do you know which one to use??

Nearly 4 in 10 (38%) workers are using the wrong type of fire extinguisher to deal with electrical fires, a survey has revealed.

Do you know, which extinguisher to use and on what type of fire if needed in an emergency?

The survey found that 10% would use a foam extinguisher to put out an electrical fire.

Another 27% used ABC powder fire extinguishers (or dry powder extinguishers), which are suited to solids, flammable liquids and flammable gases – Class A, B, and C fires. They should never be used in small, confined spaces if there is a risk of inhaling the powder.

Both types of fire extinguisher can badly damage equipment that may be unaffected by the fire itself.

The survey which include H&S managers also revealed that 8% admitted they didn’t know which fire extinguisher they should use and 7% were unaware of the universal colour-coded system for fire extinguishers.

Each year, there are 40,000 fires in the workplace, which can put the lives of workers at risk but using the wrong type of fire extinguisher can also have major consequences,

Not only can it maximise the spread of a fire, it can cause major damage to a site and equipment, thus costing companies millions of pounds to repair the damage.

Using the correct fire safety equipment is of utmost importance, and it’s crucial that all staff on site are trained, aware and understand what type of fire extinguishers to use and in what situation.

It is also interesting to note that in this year 5 of the Top 10 Fines under the Fire Regulations included lack of Fire Awareness Training. For more information about these fines please click here.

Contact us for your FREE Fire Awareness Online Training Trial.


Top 10 Fines for Non-Compliance of the Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order

10. Poundstretcher – £51,500

Leeds Crown Court fined Poundstretcher, a chain of discounts stores in the United Kingdom for seven offences under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 in October 2005. The offences were found at Poundstretcher’s Castleford store in West Yorkshire.

Fire Safety Breaches

  • Failure to take adequate fire precautions for its employees and other relevant people
  • Failure to review its fire risk assessment
  • Emergency routes and exits blocked
  • Inadequate staff training

9.    Hallmark Hotel Group – £75,000

UK Luxury hotel company Hallmark Hotel Group received a fine after putting guests at their Cheshire hotel at serious risk from fire. Firefighters called at the premises in Wilmslow in April 2008 for a routine visit and discovered a catalogue of safety issues. Hallmark Hotel Group were charged with three counts of serious fire safety breaches.

Fire Safety Breaches

  • Not a single working fire alarm
  • Faulty smoke detectors
  • Substandard fire exits
  • Staff had not been properly trained in fire safety

8.    Tesco PLC – £95,000

London Fire Brigade prosecuted retailer Tesco following a fire in October 2007 and subsequent inspection of a supermarket at Colney Hatch in Barnet. This incident led to concerns about fire safety within the store and was inspected by the Brigade the day after the fire. Tesco pleaded guilty to five breaches of the RRO (Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005) at Wood Green Crown Court in April 2010.

Fire Safety Breaches

  • Failure to ensure escape routes were kept clear
  • Inadequate fire separation in the building due to doors being wedged open

7.    Douglas and Gordon Limited – £100,000

Letting agent Douglas and Gordon Limited based in London received their fine in July 2011 for failing to act on fire risk assessment. Douglas and Gordon Ltd pleaded guilty to three breaches of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 at Southwark Crown Court. London Fire Brigade carried out an audit of the communal areas after a fire broke out in a block of flats owned by the company.

Fire Safety Breaches

  • Failing to act on significant findings
  • Failure to make an emergency plan
  • Ensuring that fire doors were self-closing
  • Failure to install emergency lighting

6.    The Atomic Weapons Establishment – £200,000

The Atomic Weapons Establishment who are responsible for the design, manufacture and support of warheads for the UK’s nuclear deterrent were fined by Reading Crown Court in May 2013. AWE admitted a single breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. An employee suffered burns when a fireball erupted in his face at the Aldermaston site in August 2010.

Fire Safety Breaches

  • Failing to supply adequate safety clothing

5.    The Radnor Hotel – £200,000

The London Fire Brigade secured their biggest ever fine against hotel owner Salim Patel, who put lives at risk by flouting fire safety laws. Salim Patel, the former owner of The Radnor Hotel was issued an enforcement notice requiring that put right the deficiencies uncovered which included:

Fire Safety Breaches

  • inadequate fire detection systems
  • inadequate emergency lighting
  • missing fire doors
  • no fire risk assessment
  • evidence the basement storeroom was being used for sleeping

 4.    The Chumleigh Lodge Hotel – £210,000

The manager and the sole director of the The Chumleigh Lodge Hotel in Finchley London, had denied 12 charges of neglecting fire safety laws under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 but was found guilty at Blackfriars Crown Court in February 2012. Inspections started after suspicions about the fire safety standards in the hotel after a fire broke out at the hotel in May 2008.

Fire Safety Breaches

  • Faulty fire doors
  • Lack of smoke alarms in some of the guest-rooms
  • Inaccessible escape routes
  • Staff had not been trained to an appropriate standard in fire safety awareness
  • No evidence of any suitable fire risk assessment was produced

3.    The Co-operative Group – £210,000

British consumer cooperative, The Co-operative Group were in Southampton Crown Court charged with serious fire safety breaches at its store in Shirley Road, Southampton. Hampshire Fire and Rescue Authority prosecuted for six breaches of fire safety under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

Fire Safety Breaches

  • Failing to maintain the rear emergency exit doors
  • A fitted lock requiring a security code on the emergency door
  • Fire alarm call point obstruction
  • Failing to ensure that the store manager was provided with suitable and sufficient fire safety training
  • Failing to ensure that the fire alarm system was being regularly tested
  • Failing to ensure a means of early detection of fire

 2.    Shell International – £300,000

Multinational oil and gas company Shell International were fined over significant failings in fire safety at the Shell Centre in central London. The energy giant pleaded guilty at Inner London crown court to three breaches of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. It was the largest fine imposed under the law. Two small fires in three weeks at the Shell Centre on York Road, Waterloo prompting investigation.

Fire Safety Breaches

  • Blocked escape routes
  • Blocked fire exits
  • Defective fire doors
  • Excessive fire loading

1.    New Look – £400,000

British global fashion retailer New Look who have a chain of high street shops in the UK, received the maximum possible fine of £400,000 following a fire that gutted the retailer’s Oxford Street store in 2007. 35 engines and 150 fire-fighters were needed to tackle the blaze and crews remained at the scene for the three days. Trade was disrupted at more than 50 Oxford Street shops. New Look pleaded guilty to two breaches of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 following prosecution by the London Fire Brigade.

Fire Safety Breaches

  • Insufficient staff training
  • Storage blocking escape routes

Good business management includes taking responsibility for fire safety, knowing the law and acting on it. This conviction shows that large companies are not exempt from prosecution and that the Fire and Rescue Service will take action when businesses do not take their fire safety responsibilities seriously. Failure to comply with the law can, as this case has shown, result in a substantial fine. 

Working in partnership with Safety Aide can stop this happening to your company. Let us carry out your Fire risk assessment and staff fire training.  Contact us for a free quote.



Issuing and managing PPE

You’ve decided that staff need personal protective equipment (PPE) and have spent time selecting suitable items. But before you hand them out, it’s worthwhile considering the next steps. Our flow chart shows what’s legally required.

Not so easy

Using personal protective equipment (PPE) as a means of controlling risks to health and safety is not as simple as it first appears. Even if you’ve managed to choose something which suits the task and fits the individual, there are still hurdles to overcome, e.g. getting staff to wear it, ensuring it’s stored properly, keeping it clean and maintained and replacing it when needed. These difficulties are summed up in the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 and the official guidance which supports them.

Tip. To lead you through the process, use our flow chart - PPE issuing and management. It summarises the actions which need to be taken when you issue PPE and afterwards.  This can be downloaded free here.

How’s the document organised?

Our process begins at the point where suitable PPE has been selected. Note. Getting to this point can be tricky and may require specialist advice from suppliers and/or your health and safety advisor. From here our flow chart branches into three streams headed: (1) “Staff management”; (2) “Stores”; and (3) “Premises”. The first refers to standard PPE which applies to a job role and will be issued personally to staff, and the second to supplies of items which will be held centrally. The third column describes facilities to be provided, signage to display and visitors to manage.

Staff management

Column one begins with an instruction to compile lists of non-disposable items for each job role. This is followed by the step-by-step procedure for issuing and managing these items. It covers:

  • record keeping
  • checking for good fit
  • providing instruction to staff
  • managing the expiry and replacement process
  • cleaning and maintenance
  • management inspections; and
  • enforcing the correct wearing of PPE.
  • Stores

The stores column begins by asking you to write a list of items which will be issued on an “as required” basis. These may include specialist equipment, e.g. safety harnesses, ropes and lifejackets and disposable items such as gloves, ear plugs and masks.

Our flow chart guides you through the process of identifying what to stock, pre-issue inspection, return procedures, formal inspection and record keeping.


The final part of our document runs through the changes you might need to make to your premises to promote the use of PPE and to accommodate it. It covers: (1) signage for mandatory PPE, e.g. hearing protection zones; (2) visitor needs; (3) storage; and (4) drying and laundering. The flow chart finishes by suggesting a periodic review of your arrangements by the health and safety committee.

Use our document to implement a systematic process of PPE management. By following it, your staff will be properly instructed so it’s used correctly, cleaned, maintained, issued to the right employees and replaced when needed. You will need to display signs, provide storage and enforce the rules.

Note: If you issue PPE, display mandatory sign to wear the PPE for certain tasks and instruct employees to wear the PPE but then do not enforce the wearing of PPE you can be found liable in the event of an accident. Your MUST enforce you own policies and procedures!


Safety Alert – Telescopic Ladders

Warning after safety tests lead to over 32,000 telescopic ladders being withdrawn from sale.

Enquiries by trading standards teams into the safety of telescopic ladders revealed major concerns.

Telescopic ladders have become increasingly popular in recent years because they fold away and can be easily stored. However, their pyramid-style operation can require up to 32 locking mechanisms and just one faulty part can lead to the ladder collapsing.

A total of 13 different telescopic ladder types have been tested by four local authorities. All failed to meet BS EN 131 − the recognised standard for ladder design, safety and structural requirements.

Almost all the ladders were easily damaged during testing, showing they were not robust enough to cope with normal wear and tear.

In the worst case, a ladder snapped in half beneath the test load − despite claiming to comply with the safety standard.

Mike Ashworth, Strategic Director for Economy, Transport and Communities, said:

"We began these tests after concerns were raised by a Derbyshire company. The results are absolutely shocking − particularly with firms advertising the ladders as complying with relevant safety standards as this means it is now difficult to advise buyers on what to look for.

"People simply aren't getting what they are paying for. This is bad enough under any circumstances, but when it is placing them in danger, it simply isn't acceptable."


Advise for duty holders

Combination ladders

Following a recent fatal accident investigation, HSE is strongly advising all duty holders and users of combination ladders to ensure that they:

  • carry out pre-use checks;
  • use them in accordance with instructions;
  • check the locking mechanism(s).

Telescopic ladders. 

  • pre-use checks on the ladders are thorough, checking the components and operation of each and every locking mechanism (often one or two per rung) and the associated release mechanism(s);
  • the ladders are stored well, transported carefully and maintained (including cleaning) as dirt and grit etc. can affect locking mechanisms;
  • they understand the limitations and likely performance of their ladder, e.g. strength, bending etc. 

Workplace Housekeeping – Dealing with Chaos and Mess

Scenario: You have several members of staff each with a similar amount of space. While most seem to manage, one is in constant chaos, blaming it all on their workload and environment. Where should you start?

At risk

A recent safety inspection has identified that housekeeping standards in the workplace are well below par. This is causing several specific hazards including: (1) tripping; (2) ergonomic problems around and beneath desks or around workshops / stores; (3) manual handling risks arising from difficulty to stored items; (4) fire hazard from the combustible storage and the risk of damage to electrical equipment; (5) inappropriate access to hazardous substances which should be locked away; and (6) stress for employees working there.


Doing nothing isn’t an option as you realise that you will be liable if there’s an accident. But getting anything done about it seems to meet with a brick wall. When the points were raised with staff, they blame it all on a lack of space, the wrong storage, too much work, etc. But spending lots of money isn’t really an option and in any case, you doubt that it will get to the root of the problem.

It’s you, not me

The majority of poor housekeeping is the result of mindset rather than the physical environment.

The main factors involved are:

  • the standards which the individual finds acceptable
  • the standards imposed (and measured)
  • the level of empowerment given to the employee to resolve the problems.

In other words, if you don’t set the standards you expect, you will get the level of tidiness which each individual think is OK. The resources and decision-making power you delegate will also have an effect.

Set out your stall

Where your requirements are already clear, e.g. within your health and safety policy, you can take measures to enforce your standards with the staff concerned. If not, you will need to go back to basics as follows:

Tip 1. Write to all staff with responsibility for premises pointing out the legal requirements, e.g. “to comply with the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and other applicable regulations, all workplaces must be kept in a safe condition”. Explain that it is their responsibility to ensure compliance within their area and that a breach in standards exposes the company to a risk of legal action.

Tip 2. Describe the standard you expect in detail, for example, all floors to be kept free of stored items, all storage to be on shelving or in cupboards, confidential records filed, all corridors and fire exits to be unobstructed, fire extinguishers to be accessible, no combustibles stored in plant rooms, cleaning materials to be safely stored, etc.

Tip 3. Ask the managers to come back to you by a set date with any requested resources they need. Also ask them if there are any obstructions to achieving what you have asked.

Tip 4. Implement a routine inspection programme, including self-monitoring checks on, e.g., a weekly basis, and independent checks periodically.

Unless you take charge and set the example, you will get the standard of tidiness which individuals think is OK. Outline the legal responsibilities and your expectations in detail, e.g. unobstructed corridors, chemicals stored, etc. Ask the managers what additional resources they need to do what you ask, then inspect periodically.

A clean workplace can be achieved without spending a fortune and it contributes to a safe workplace for all!