PRESS RELEASE: Which Fire Extinguishers For Your Office Kitchen?

You’ve provided a small kitchen for staff to make themselves hot food and drinks. Given its limited use, is a fire blanket or fire extinguisher necessary for this area? What are the rules?

Legal requirement

Article 13 of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 requires that premises are equipped with “appropriate fire-fighting equipment”. The order is in force in England and Wales but there are similarly loose legal requirements for Scotland and Northern Ireland. Essentially, it’s for you and your fire risk assessor to decide which extinguishers, if any, are needed. There certainly isn’t any blanket requirement to install certain equipment.

How to decide

Article 13 describes the factors to take into account when specifying fire-fighting equipment, including the (1) “dimensions and use of the premises”; (2) “equipment present”; and (3) “physical and chemical properties of the substances likely to be present”. Therefore, you must consider the types of cooking appliances used and whether frying could take place.

In practice

Many fire safety product suppliers will automatically specify a fire blanket for a kitchen, even for small rooms with minimal equipment. But doing so is not always necessary.

Tip 1. Fire blankets work by smothering the flames and are an excellent option for putting out a fire in a frying pan or deep fat fryer. If you have a hob or frying equipment, put a fire blanket in an accessible place but not too close to the potential fire source. It’s best if it’s en-route to the room exit.

Tip 2. Always mount the fire blanket on a wall. It’s deployed by pulling on the tabs so if it’s kicking around loose on a shelf, it will be difficult to extract in a hurry.

Tip 3. If you have a fire blanket but aren’t sure if you need it, bear in mind that there’s not much inconvenience in keeping it. Plus, it could be of use over a burning toaster or food which has caught fire in the microwave. We would recommend you retain it, mounted on the kitchen wall, to provide additional safety. If you decide to provide a fire blanket, ensure that its use is included in training provided for fire marshals.

Which portable extinguisher?

If you have a carbon dioxide extinguisher in a neighbouring corridor or office area, and it’s within ten metres of the kitchen, you can count that as your cover for electrical equipment such as microwaves or toasters. Ten metres is the recommended maximum travel distance within the latest version of BS 5306-8.

If all you have is a tea area with a kettle, then the fire hazards are no greater than in the rest of the office where you have printers, computers, etc. In that case you don’t need to consider any special provision beyond that provided for the premises in general.

Tip There are specialist “F-Type” fire extinguishers which are designed for use on fires caused by deep fat fryers. These are normally only found in larger commercial kitchens, so only consider one if you have an open deep fat fryer. Most companies find it’s cheaper and easier to ban these more hazardous types of cooking appliances from staff kitchens.