There are 2 questions that we are asked every day: “Is it a legal requirement to have fire extinguishers?”, and “Do I need them in an empty building?”. It’s not always possible to give a straight yes/no answer and here’s why…
Is it a legal requirement to have fire extinguishers?
There is no single law stating that a property owner must install fire extinguishers. However, the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 requires that anyone responsible for a property or a business with 5+ people must have a Fire Risk Assessment completed by a ‘suitably qualified’ person.
The Fire Risk Assessment is a regularly updated document that identifies all the possible hazards in the premises and suggests prevention measures. It is possible that extinguishers would not be recommended (for example, an automatic suppression system may be required) but in many situations extinguishers are recommended as an affordable fire protection solution.
Should a fire ever break out and you were asked to prove you had done everything in your power to prevent it, the Fire Risk Assessment coupled with proof of the fire prevention measures you have undertaken would be critical evidence.
Do I need fire extinguishers in an empty building?
Empty premises are often targets for vandalism and arson. Any combustible materials or sources of ignition should be removed and appropriate security measures put in place, such as alarms and sprinkler systems. Once again, a Fire Risk Assessment will identify the appropriate action that should be taken. You may also wish to speak to your insurers about keeping Fire Extinguishers on site. They may consider that staff and visitors to the building are safer with them removed if they present an attractive target for vandals.