October23

Fire Extinguisher Safety

By John Howell

Unlike many workplace hazards, fire is a potential threat in nearly every industry and environment. This makes fire one of the most deadly workplace hazards, killing hundreds and injuring thousands on the job each year.

Prior to fighting any type of fire with a fire extinguisher, a risk assessment must be performed to evaluate the fire size, fuel type, evacuation routes, and other hazards in the area.

Risk assessment questions:

The following questions will help you decide if you should stay and fight a fire or if you should evacuate the building:

Do you know the fuel source of the fire?

Should you stay and fight the fire?

Yes: If you are aware of the fire’s fuel source and the appropriate class of extinguisher is readily available.

No: If the fuel source or type is unknown, or involves flammable solvents or hazardous materials, or if there are no available extinguishers able to fight the type of fire occurring.

Is the fire too big?

Should you stay and fight the fire?

Yes: If the fire is limited to the original material ignited, is contained (e.g., in a waste basket), and is not higher than your head.

No: If the fire involves flammable solvents or hazardous materials, has spread over more than 60 square feet, is partially hidden behind a wall or ceiling, cannot be reached from a standing position, or poses other serious hazards.

Is the air safe to breathe?

Should you stay and fight the fire?

Yes: If the fire is producing only a small amount of smoke that will not likely deplete the oxygen in the room. Smoke may be accumulating at the ceiling, but visibility is good and no respiratory protection is required.

No: If the smoke is quickly filling the room, decreasing visibility, or creating a respiratory hazard in which the fire cannot be fought without respiratory protection.

Is the environment too hot or smoky?

Should you stay and fight the fire?

Yes: If heat is being generated but the room temperature is not increasing and no special personal protective equipment is required.

No: If the heat radiated is easily felt on exposed skin, making it difficult to approach within the effective range of the extinguisher.

Is there a safe evacuation path?

Should you stay and fight the fire?

Yes: If there is a clear evacuation route behind you as you fight the fire.

No: If the fire is not contained and fire, heat, smoke, or debris may quickly block the evacuation route.

When employees are properly trained to use fire extinguishers, they have the ability to save lives, as well as property.

Use the PASS technique:

Pull the pin: Remove the safety pin, which will allow the activation handle to be squeezed.

Aim the nozzle at the base of the fire: Stand at least 8-10 feet from the fire and point the nozzle at the fire’s base, which is where its fuel is located.

Squeeze the handles together: This releases the extinguishing agent.

Sweep from side to side: Coat the fuel at the base of the fire with the agent until the fire has been completely extinguished.

Inspections and Maintenance:

Fire extinguishers must be:

  • Fully charged and operational at all times.
  • Serviced annually, or after discharge.
  • Properly tagged with the details and date of their latest inspection.
  • Located throughout the facility and readily accessible.
  • Kept in their designated places.

NOTE: Always promote a discussion on any of the topics covered in the Tool Box Talks. Should any question arise that you cannot answer, don’t hesitate to contact your Employer.

Barnstable fire department fire extinguisher training at Shepley.

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