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A History of Office Fire Extinguishers

Fire extinguishers in UK office buildings date back to the 19th century, and whilst it’s near impossible to identify the precise moment where the first fire extinguisher was designed for office use, there is still a deep history to how and where fire safety regulations came into place.

Fire Extinguishers – History Timeline

Following the first fire extinguisher being patented in 1723 by Ambrose Godfrey, nearly 100 years later in 1813, George William Manby invented a portable fire extinguisher, also known as the Chemical Fire Extinguisher. Although not designed for specific office use, this fire extinguisher laid the foundations for future extinguisher technology.

Following on from this, in the 19th and early 20th centuries other types of extinguishers were constructed, including soda-acid extinguishers, foam extinguishers, and carbon extinguishers, to be used in commercial buildings, such as offices. These types of fire extinguishers were ideal for small fires and those caused by electrical equipment, and thus were a logical addition to workplace safety.

The introduction of fire safety regulations, such as the Fire Precautions Act 1971, led to fire extinguishers being used in offices throughout the country. The Fire Safety Order 2005 has been one of the major advancements in fire safety, with regulations applying to all non-domestic premises, such as office buildings. These guidelines put the responsibility of fire safety on employers or building owners, requiring fire risk assessments, safety measurements and emergency procedures.

Over time, these regulations have continued to be developed and advanced, with fire extinguishers and alarm systems updating to adhere to such guidelines.

More recently, following the Grenfell Tower Disaster in 2017, the Government has introduced the Building Safety Bill – legislation to establish regulations for building safety and improve fire safety in all buildings, including office buildings.


There are an assortment of office fire extinguishers available today to address various types of fire hazards; from CO2 fire extinguishers to foam fire extinguishers, they all help to keep people and buildings safe. The introduction of portable fire extinguishers, similar but more advanced than that which was created back in 1813, gives workers and employees a convenient way to transport extinguishers to the location of a fire, aiding quick solutions to preserve safety.

The advancement of fire extinguishers, paired with smoke detectors, fire alarms and suppression systems, have all become fundamental elements of office design, providing fire protection and detection.

Fire Safety Needs for Offices

Offices have the potential for fire risks due to the considerable number of people, power supplies, large furniture and computers, which is not helped by common causes of fire including defective wiring or overloaded electrical sockets.

Fire Requirements

Today’s regulations require fire extinguishers to be readily available in office buildings, depending on the class of fire. It is a legal requirement for a workplace to ensure all fire safety equipment is in working condition and functions correctly, and to have two water extinguishers per floor as a minimum, with optional CO2 extinguishers to help with electrical equipment emergencies.


Although we have come a long way from the first ever fire extinguisher, it continues to be essential that workplaces remain progressive with fire safety, ensuring both property and people are kept safe and free from harm.