Fire Extinguisher Safety Training - Dont Be Caught Unprepared
Teaching your employees the proper use of fire extinguishers can save lives and property and should be part of every companies safety training programs.
The best way to fight fires is to prevent them. Putting out fires with an extinguisher can be dangerous if you don't know what you are doing. Fires start with heat and can be started with anything that generates heat. Once a fire has started it generates more heat and as long as it has oxygen and fuel, it will continue to grow. Fuels can include paper, wood and some metals orflammable liquids and ignitable gases. It's the vapors coming off of a substance mixed with oxygen in the air that burn. Since fire is a chain reaction between heat, fuel and oxygen, when one of these is removed the fire will stop.
You need to know what classes of fires might occur at your facility, so that you can use the correct fire extinguisher to fight them. Fires are divided into four classes - A, B, C, and D. Class A fires are fueled by "ordinary" combustible materials like paper, cardboard and wood. Water, foam and some dry chemicals can be used to extinguish Class A fires. Class B fires are fueled by ignitable gases and liquids such as gasoline or propane. Dry chemical, foam and carbon dioxide extinguishers are used on these fires. Class C fires involve live electrical hazards. Class C fires are extinguished by nonconductive extinguishing agents that prevent electrocution, however it's always best to cut the electricity before extinguishing them. Class D fires are fueled by combustible metals such as potassium, sodium and magnesium and are extremely dangerous. Class D fire extinguishers must be used to extinguish them.
Fire extinguishers need to be mounted in plain sight and checked regularly and inspected every year. Extinguishers need to be ready to be used at any time. Never place an extinguisher in a closet, on the floor or behind anything. When a fire starts you want to be able to reach the extinguisher in seconds. OSHA and local and state ordinances require that fire extinguishers be kept near any fire hazard and the DOT requires them in commercial vehicles. Extinguishers need to be checked once a month if they are kept indoors and once a week if they are outdoors. Never test an extinguisher to see if it's working. This could cause it to lose pressure. Check the extinguisher for corrosion, that the nose and horn are in good shape and unobstructed, the pressure gauge shows full and the locking pin and tamper seal are in place. Lastly, make sure that a professional technician checks all of your extinguishers annually.
Sound the alarm and call 911 before using a fire extinguisher. Always make sure no one is in danger and the authorities have been notified before beginning the process. In addition, closing nearby doors and windows will limit the fire's supply of oxygen.
Always have an escape plan and know when the fire has become too dangerous. If a fire is behind a closed door - never open it!! Smoke inhalation kills more people than fires, so if the smoke becomes strong, leave quickly. Be especially aware of fires with plastic and other poisonous materials. This type of smoke can kill you in a couple of breaths. Make sure you know your escape route blindfolded. The smoke can obstruct your view and effectively blind you.
Remember the P.A.S.S. method. Make sure the extinguisher is upright then do the following.
Pull the extinguisher's pin
Aim the nozzle at the base of the fire.
Squeeze the trigger
Sweep from side to side, with a slow steady motion
Lastly, talk to your local Fire Department about training. Many times they offer hands-on training.
Although fire fighting isn't in most job descriptions, the proper training can prevent a catastrophe. Make sure that all of your employees are familiar with the fire extinguishers in your buildings and facilities. It may just save a life.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Charlie Bentson King is a freelance writer.