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Identifying and understanding the various fire extinguisher colours available can sometimes be challenging. The regulation for fire extinguishers (BS EN3) dictates that all extinguishers must be colour coded according to the fire-suppressing agent within them. Previously regulations stated that the whole body of the canister would be coloured, however in the 1990s EU changes to this meant that newer extinguishers are bright signal red with a second band of colour corresponding to the type of agent inside covering between 3-5% of the surface area of the canister. This band must be situated on the top half of the canister and be visible from 180 degrees.
Fire extinguishers in the old style of a solid colour canister are still legal; however they must be replaced in the new style as they reach the end of their life.
The purpose of having different fire extinguisher colours is so that in an emergency an individual can differentiate between the types and find it easier to use the correct one. All fire extinguishers must be visibly placed with their labels clearly showing, and positioned in such a way that the carrying handle is also easily accessible. Additional fire signage should also be located next to the extinguisher itself, with the detail of the type along with the same colour coding label on the signage.
Since colour coding alone is not as simple as it once was, standard pictograms are also present on the extinguisher canister to illustrate the class of fire that the extinguisher is suitable to combat.
Fire Extinguisher Colours & Types
The types of extinguisher and their respective coloured bands are as follows:
Water – Red
Foam – Cream
Dry Powder – Blue
Co2 – Black
Wet Chemical – Yellow
Halon – Green
The chart below illustrates the available extinguisher types and their coloured bands:
Please note: Powder extinguishers will leave a residue that can damage electrical equipment. If available, use a Co2 extinguisher instead.
Water extinguishers should never be used on a live electrical fire due to risk of electrocution.