For my sins I spent most of my working life in the Fire Protection industry. Although my work wasn't directly involved with fire extinguishers as such, I did go through the training, as did all my colleagues. A real eye-opener, and I'd certainly urge all businesses, whether directly involved in fire safety or otherwise (and fire safety is everyone's
concern...) to put their employees through likewise. You soon learn a few 'do's and 'don'ts'!
What is most important is that the correct type or types of extinguisher are placed in the locations where they're most likely to be needed. For most environments that generally means a water type, which is the most effective against non-electrical fires involving ordinary material (furnishings, paper, etc.) - and a CO2
type for equipment posing an electrical hazard - e.g. computers.
Other types of extinguisher (foam, dry powder, etc.) are less likely to be encountered except where there is a more specialised hazard like petrol. In which case it is even more imperative that the workforce are properly trained.
Most people should find it easy to distinguish between the two common types, water and CO2
, just by their shape. A water extinguisher has a flexible hose, a CO2
has a 'horn' on a swivel arm (n.b. don't touch the horn when setting off a CO2
- it'll freeze your fingers!).
Having the different types in different colours is less important, and in fact counterproductive. Better that people in an emergency look around for something red. And the last thing we want is for, say, an oxygen cylinder in a hospital to be mistaken for an extinguisher!