Fire Extinguisher in Car

Fire Extinguishers are they required in Company Vehicles?

Background to Post

When running our Scene Assessments as part of our First Aid Courses we often discuss what we would do in a Road Traffic accident that involved fire. Yes of course we would ring 999 and ask for all the relevant services but just how would you help those poor individuals trapped.

Well with a Fire Extinguisher, but just where do you get one of those from? Do you have one in your car or work vehicle? What are the rules about business vehicles and fire extinguishers?

We set out to answer those questions in one definitive post.

Work place legislation that covers Business Vehicles

So, with more and more business being conducted on our roads; be it transporting goods, a mobile workplace that brings the business to a customer (anyone from dog groomer, plumber, mobile hairdresser, electrician, shop fitters so on and so forth as the list is endless), or simply travelling from place to place on business

Employers have a number of legal requirements to satisfy, procedures to implement and documentation to record and keep. It can be a minefield knowing what your legal requirements are and tough to find the answers. One such struggle is knowing just what your responsibilities are when it comes to Health and Safety in business vehicles.

FSO2005 Regulations

As we have found there is plenty of contradicting information out there from different sources, many claiming that your business vehicle is classed as a ‘workplace’ and therefore must follow FSO2005 and the requirements set out in it. We have to say until we carried out the formal research on this – that is what we also thought! But it seems that in most cases, claiming that company vehicles are a ‘workplace’ and therefore require fire extinguishers is incorrect.

A business vehicle is NOT required by law to have a fire extinguisher installed under FSO2005 as that act does not apply to vehicles that are licensed under Vehicle Excise and Registration Act 1994 or exempt from duty. Most road vehicles fall into this category.

However there is a requirement for businesses to conduct a Health and Safety assessment and this should include a fire risk assessment and quite often your health and safety risk assessment will highlight the need for a fire extinguisher and adequate training in its use.

Fire extinguisher character saying "Nothing to worry about here I have got this"

The requirements for which kind of fire extinguishers to use in a business vehicle will vary depending on the type of vehicle, use, content and size. e.g. a car used for travelling between premises may only need a small 1kg Dry Powder Extinguisher, or may not even need one at all if your risk assessment doesn’t see the need. But, a larger van or truck being used to transfer goods or chemicals will have very different requirements, and will need one or more larger extinguishers.

The HSE sets out these requirements but we would recommend you contact a Fire Safety company who will assist you with your requirements.

Dangerous Goods

Carriage of dangerous goods by road in the United Kingdom is carefully regulated by two pieces of legislation:

  • The Carriage of Dangerous Goods and Use of Transportable Pressure Equipment Regulations 2009 (CDG regs); and
  • The ADR which is the European agreement concerning the international transport of Dangerous Goods by Road (ADR). It sets provisions for the safe transport of dangerous goods by road. If your products are classified as dangerous goods and would like to transport them by road, you must comply with the provisions in the ADR

The regulations set out a set of guidelines for all vehicles carrying substances or goods classified as hazardous, including guidelines on providing adequate fire protection equipment such fire extinguishers.

So what is meant by a ‘hazardous’ load?

 Hazardous substances are classified as any of the following:

  • Class 1 Explosive substances and articles
  • Class 2 Gases
  • Class 3 Flammable liquids
  • Class 4.1 Flammable solids, self-reactive substances, polymerizing substances and solid desensitized explosives
  • Class 4.2 Substances liable to spontaneous combustion
  • Class 4.3 Substances which, in contact with water, emit flammable gases
  • Class 5.1 Oxidizing substances
  • Class 5.2 Organic peroxides
  • Class 6.1 Toxic substances
  • Class 6.2 Infectious substances
  • Class 7 Radioactive material
  • Class 8 Corrosive substances
  • Class 9 Miscellaneous dangerous substances and articles

Each entry in the list has been assigned a specific UN number.

Where vehicles are carrying, or are sometimes required to carry, any hazardous material, fire extinguishing equipment must be provided.  The size and number of fire extinguishers required varies according to the vehicle’s maximum gross weight, but is summarised in the following table: 

Transport Unit
Maximum Permissible
Mass
Minimum
Number of
Fire Extinguishers
Minimum
total capacity
per transport unit
Extinguisher suitable
for engine or cab fire
At least one with a minimum
capacity of
Additional extinguisher(s)
requirement. At least
one should have a min
capacity of
Up to 3.5 Tonnes24Kg2Kg2Kg
3.5 to 7.5 Tonnes28KG2KG6KG
Over 7.5 Tonnes212KG2KG6KG

The capacities in the table are for dry power devices (or an equivalent capacity for any other suitable extinguishing agent)

Examples

  • A 3.5t Mercedes Sprinter carrying a hazardous substance must carry 2 fire extinguishers totalling a minimum of 4kg weight, including one with at least 2kg Dry Powder dedicated for a cab or engine fire.  In this instance, 2 x 2kg Dry Powder fire extinguishers would be an acceptable minimum.
  • A 44 ton curtain sided articulated truck must also have 2 extinguishers on board, with a minimum total capacity of 12kg of Dry Powder.  One must be specifically for a cab or engine fire, and must hold at least 2kg of Dry Powder.  You must then provide an additional 10kg of Dry Powder, with no extinguisher containing less than 6kg of Dry Powder.  An common setup is a 3kg Dry Powder in the cab, with 1 x 9kg Dry Powder unit mounted on the trailer.  If the tractor unit (cab) is sometimes used with other trailers, you must fit an additional 9kg unit to the cab, to ensure even if the trailer has no extinguisher fitted the whole vehicle complies.  The additional 9kg Dry Powder is normally mounted in a Single Extinguisher Cabinet on the back of the cab.

General Points

Note that Dry Powder fire extinguishers are specifically referenced.  This is due to their multi-class fire rating – their ability to tackle nearly every classification of fire, including Class A (flammable solids such as wood, paper and textiles), Class B (flammable liquids) and Class C (flammable gases), as well as being completely safe for use on live electrical equipment.  Other types of extinguisher can be used, but they must have similar or better fire fighting capabilities, both in respect of the types of fires they can tackle, and their overall fire ratings.

Another key point is that the fire extinguishers should be subject to a system of regular inspection in accordance with authorised national standards in order to guarantee their functional safety.  Here in the UK the standard that they must be inspected to is BS5306 Part 3.

The final notable point on the ADR Regulations which must be considered stipulates that fire extinguishers must be installed in such a way so as to prevent the effects of the weather compromising the operational performance of the fire extinguishers.  The extinguisher for the cab is generally mounted inside the cab, covering this point perfectly.  However, fire extinguishers too big for in-cab mounting, or extinguishers mounted on the trailer, must be adequately protected.  This is normally done by mounting inside a weather-sealed fire extinguisher cabinet. 

A range of sizes and styles is available, from traditional ‘front loading’ cabinets, to the ‘top loaders’ that have been specifically designed for mounting on vehicles.  These ‘top loaders’ offer the very best protection for fire extinguishers on vehicles.

Our Recommendation

Of course, your vehicle doesn’t have to carry dangerous goods for it to be a good idea to carry a fire extinguisher!  Fire can strike without warning, and a vehicle fire quickly turns to a complete loss of the vehicle if not tackled fast and early.  If you rely on your vehicle, don’t take the chance – make sure you have an adequate and operational fire extinguisher handy at all times.  You never know when you might need it, even to help someone else!

In our opinion it seems to us a good idea to always carry a fire extinguisher

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