Whether it’s in the home, in public or in the workplace, fire safety should never be underestimated. However, while many of us may feel confident about the basics of staying safe in the event of a fire, few know the importance of identifying the different fire extinguisher colours.
Fire extinguishers are often the most readily available and most effective way to defend against fires, and all extinguishers manufactured in accordance with official fire safety standards adhere to a coding system.
Fire Extinguisher Colours
The colour code of an extinguisher determines the contents of the fire extinguisher and the types of materials it should be used on.
Solid red is one of the most common fire extinguisher colours, and it can be found in many domestic, commercial and industrial environments.
- Contains water.
- Safe for use on solid combustible materials like paper, wood and textiles.
- Should not be used around electrical equipment or electrical outlets.
- Suitable for use on class A fires. (ordinary combustibles).
A fire extinguisher with a cream band above the operating instructions contains foam, and they are a more versatile (but more expensive) alternative to red extinguishers.
- Contains Aqueous Film-Forming Foam (AFFF).
- Is safe for use on solid combustible materials as well as flammable liquids.
- AFF foam creates a layer which can help prevent fires from re-igniting after it has been extinguished.
- Suitable for use on class A and B fires. (combustible or flammable liquids).
Fire extinguishers with a blue colour code contain dry powder, and they’re a multipurpose extinguisher which can be found in many different risk environments.
- Contains a dry powder which smothers fires.
- Is safe for use on solid combustible materials, flammable liquids and gases.
- Is safe for use on fire classes A, B and C (flammable gases).
- A special powder is also available for class D (metal fires), but these are not suitable for use on any other fire class.
- Always ensure that the gas supply has been shut off before tackling a flammable gas fire.
Fire extinguishers with black coding contain carbon dioxide (CO2) gas, and they are often found in environments which are at risk of electrical fires.
- Sprays CO2 gas which suffocates the fire and displaces the amount of oxygen in the air.
- Can be used on fires involving electrical equipment and flammable liquid fires.
- Is safe for use on class B fires.
- Leaves no residue behind so it is one of the cleanest ways to extinguish a fire.
- It is very important that black fire extinguishers are used in well-ventilated areas because CO2 can cause asphyxiation.
A yellow code signifies a wet chemical extinguisher, and these are typically suited to kitchen environments.
- Contains a special chemical agent which coats and blankets the fire with a layer of foam. Unlike other foam extinguishers, the wet chemical has a faster-acting cooling effect.
- Should only be used on class F fires which contain cooking fats and oils but it can also be used on class A fires as well.
The fire extinguisher colour code acts as a visual aid for users to determine what type of fire the extinguisher is suitable for.
Using an extinguisher from the wrong colour code can be hazardous, so any person working in a high-risk environment like a kitchen or industrial setting should know the different fire extinguisher colours and their purposes.
What can happen if you use the wrong type of fire extinguisher
Using the wrong type of fire extinguisher can have disastrous consequences. For example, if you use a water fire extinguisher on an electrical fire, the result could be lethal as you risk electrocuting yourself and anyone else around you.
Another example would be if you were to use a water fire extinguisher on a cooking oil or fats fire, not only will this not extinguish the fire but it will actually cause it to spread and make the situation even worse.
CSCS Test Questions on fire extinguisher colours
Here are a few CSCS test sample questions based on the different fire extinguisher colours.
- What type of fire extinguisher is identified by the colour blue?
- What type of fire extinguisher is identified by the colour red?
- What type of fire extinguisher is identified by the colour black?
- What type of fire extinguisher is identified by the colour cream?
- What type of fire extinguisher is identified by the colour yellow?
Want more questions? You can test your knowledge of fire extinguishers with our free CSCS mock test on fire extinguishers.