August - Fire Extinguisher Use
Safety Tips: Fire Extinguisher Use
Given the fact that we do have turnover in some of our offices due to retirements, etc., there are some subjects that should be written about every year, especially those that can directly affect our livelihood.
According to OSHA requirements, no one in any workplace is supposed to use a fire extinguisher unless they have been trained. After reading and heeding the tips in this article, you will be able to use a fire extinguisher and know the situations in which to use them. It is imperative to know how to use a portable fire extinguisher for several obvious reasons; the first being the keys to activate it to extinguish a fire. Secondly, the size and type of fire governs whether you need to tackle the problem, or call 911 and clear the building. Both of these items, if not performed correctly, can cause one to injure themselves and/or someone else in the process.
FOUR ITEMS TO REMEMBER WHEN USING AN EXTINGUISHER:
- 1. Use your judgment – Ask yourself: “Is the fire limited in size and can it spread?”, “ Do I have an ‘escape route’ if something goes wrong?”, Obviously – “Do you know the location of the nearest fire extinguisher?”
- 2. Communicate – Assume that your decision is to fight the fire. Make sure that you tell at least one other person. That person should also pass the word along that you are attempting to extinguish the fire.
- 3. Ready the fire extinguisher - You may have the option of choosing the correct type of extinguisher. However, we have tried to see that all offices have the Type ABC, which covers: paper products, wood, flammable liquids like gasoline, kerosene, oil, oil-based paint, etc. It also covers energized electrical equipment, such as: fuse boxes, circuit breakers, machinery and appliances.
The following is a short description of each type of extinguisher and their designed purpose:
- Type A – Ordinary Combustibles -- wood, paper products, rubber, cloth, and many plastics.
- Type B – Flammable Liquids – gasoline, tar, oil, oil-based paint, kerosene, lacquer, and flammable paint.
- Type C – Energized Electrical Equipment – includes wiring, fuse boxes, circuit breakers, machinery and appliances.
- Type D – Flammable Solids – like magnesium.
- We talked above about the four items to remember when using portable fire extinguishers. Using judgment and communicating pretty much explain themselves. Readying the extinguisher and using it warrant a more detailed explanation.
- 4. Ready the Extinguisher (Preparing it for use in a fire)
- Quickly, but carefully, remove the extinguisher from the mounting bracket. Watch the weight because extinguishers come in a variety of weights. (In our offices, they are normally 2.5 lbs. to 10 lbs).
- Stand about six feet from the fire.
- Remove the hose/nozzle from the holding bracket and pull the pin.
- Aim towards the fire.
- Squeeze the handle after you have aimed (to avoid wasting time and chemical).
The NATIONAL FIRE PROTECTION ASSOCIATION (NFPA) uses a technique to remember when using a fire extinguisher. It is known as the P.A.S.S. technique.
P – Pull out the pin that secures the handle.
A – Aim the extinguisher nozzle at the base of the fire.
S – Squeeze the handle – (Don’t be surprised – the chemical agent will make a loud noise as it is released through the nozzle.
S – Sweep the agent from side to side across the base of the fire until it is completely out. Be on the alert for re-ignition or restarting. If this happens, continue to use the extinguisher until the fire is out or the chemical agent has been used up.
Once it appears that the fire is out, back away and check for sure. If the situation is applicable, ask an associate to get another extinguisher just in case of a restart and the chemical is drained from the first extinguisher. Also, remember if you have exhausted the extinguisher and the fire is still burning, Evacuate the Area!!
As a suggestion, it would be good to take a few minutes with your staff and review the procedure for using the extinguisher. We all have new employees that may not have had this exposure or be familiar with their use.
Contain the flame – avoid the pain!
If You’re in Doubt – You Can’t Put It Out!
Ted Gordon is the Risk Management/Loss Control Manager for the Mississippi State University Extension Service and the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station. His office is located in the North Mississippi Research and Extension Center, in Verona, MS. His telephone number is 662-566-2201.