GHS SDS Preparation Tip 3: How to Choose Suitable Fire Extinguishing Agents

Little Pro on 2018-01-11

GHS SDS section 5 shall describe the requirements for fighting a fire caused by a chemical substance or mixture, or arising in its vicinity. Quite often we see generic descriptions such as “using suitable extinguishing media” in the section 5 of low-quality SDSs. These descriptions are not helpful at all since it is highly likely that workers or SDS readers are not fire extinguishing experts and cannot make right choice in case of fire. It would be catastrophic if workers choose wrong fire extinguishing agents (i.e, those who can react with flammable materials). In this article, we will teach you how to specify suitable and unsuitable extinguishing media in GHS SDS section 5.

Types of Fire and Suitable Extinguishing Media

To choose suitable extinguishing media, you have to understand the categories of fire first and then choose the right type of fire extinguisher. You shall also specify unsuitable extinguishing media in your SDS.

Fire class


Suitable extinguishing media

Unsuitable extinguishing media

Class A

Common Combustible Solids



Wood, Paper, Textiles, Coal, Plastics, etc.

Dry powder, foam, water, water mist and wet chemicals

Carbon dioxide


For solid substances which in contact with water emit flammable or toxic gases, water should be specified as unsuitable extinguishing media

Class B

Flammable Liquids


Petrol, Diesel, Oils, Paint, Paraffin and Common Organic Solvents etc.

Dry powder, foam, carbon dioxide

Wet chemicals, water

Class C

Flammable Gases


Methane, Propane, Natural Gas etc.

Dry powder

Water, foam, wet chemicals, carbon dioxide

Class D

Flammable Metals


Magnesium, Aluminium, Lithium etc.

Dry powder (NaCl,  graphite or NaCO3)

Water, foam, wet chemicals, carbon dioxide

Class E

Electrical Fires


Computers, Stereos, Fuse boxes, Batteries etc.

Dry powder, carbon dioxide

Water, foam and wet chemicals

Class F

Kitchen Fires


Cooking Oil, Fats, Grease etc.

Wet chemicals, foam

Water, carbon dioxide

Note: US NFPA has similar fire classification, but not exactly the same classification

Types of Fire Extinguisher and Take-home Message

There are 5 common types of fire extinguisher: dry power, foam, carbon dioxide, water and wet chemical (see picture below). Each type has its own advantages and disadvantages. Please always specify the right type of fire extinguisher for your chemicals in the SDSs to reduce property loss and save lives.

 How to Choose Suitable Fire Extinguishing Agents

If you wish to quickly remember which type of fire extinguisher is suitable for your chemicals, please remember the following take-home messages:

  • Water is only suitable for common flammable solids. It is not suitable for other fire types, especially flammable metals and electrical fires.
  • Foam is suitable for common flammable solids and liquid
  • Dry powder is suitable for the most types of fire.  It is the only type of fire extinguisher suitable for flammable gases.


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 Tags: Topics - GHSGHS SDS and Labelling