Toolbox Talks Fire Extinguishers – Fire Training Toolbox
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Fire! Quick – Where’s the Fire Extinguisher?
Picture yourself in this situation: You are at work, and you smell something burning. A short distance away, you see smoke. You run towards it and you find a small fire burning in a trash can. Would you know what to do? Do you know where the closest fire extinguisher is located? Do you know what type of extinguisher is needed? Is the fire too big for you to put out? Are there people in the area that should be warned of the danger?
These are the types of questions that will be going through your mind should you ever find yourself in that situation. However, remember that you will be stressed and that may impact your ability to react quickly. This is why it’s good practice to be prepared for a fire. Ask yourself right now: Do you know where the closest fire extinguisher is? What type is it? Can you use it on grease or gasoline fires? Why or why not? Is the extinguisher behind a glass door that needs to be broken? Can you break it bare handed (or should you even try)? By knowing the answers to these questions in advance, you’ll know how to react quickly in this emergency situation.
Did you know that the vast majority of portable, handheld fire extinguishers are loaded with a dry chemical powder that will extinguish the majority of fires you might encounter in your daily environment? This powder is not toxic but will make you sneeze and cough if you inhale it. This powder will extinguish Class “A”, “B”, and “C” fires.
Class “A” fires involve material such as paper, plastic, wood and other common combustibles.
Class “B” fires involve grease, oil or gasoline. Dry chemical extinguishers will work, but these fires can be harder to extinguish and should be approached with extreme caution.
Class “C” fires involve burning electrical motors or transformer. This type of fire changes from “C” to Class “A” or “B” as soon as the power is cut off (or shorts out). Dry chemical can be used here also because it will not conduct electricity and will put out “A” or “B” type fires.
Think of a dry chemical extinguisher as spray paint, hair spray, or shaving cream cans – it does not need to be turned upside down to use it. Anytime you need to use a fire extinguisher, remember to sweep the extinguisher’s nozzle back-and-forth at what is actually burning–not at the flames or smoke. The goal is to put a “barrier” between the fuel and the surrounding oxygen.
You should NEVER empty the extinguisher onto the burned item after the flames have stopped. The fire might start again and you would be left without any extinguishing powder. Before you even start trying to extinguish the fire, designate someone to call the fire department. Fire fighters know what to do and what to look for–even after you think you have doused it. There have been cases where fires that were supposedly extinguished, actually came back to life hours later.
You should also know where the fire extinguishers are located throughout your facility or work area. Don’t hang your coat over them, or stack material in front of them. Extinguishers are never needed until they are needed NOW. Keeping them easily visible and easily accessible at all times helps ensure that when a fire emergency occurs, a fire extinguisher can be easily and quickly reached.
Please remember that fire extinguishers are made for relatively small fires. If the fire is too big or moving too fast to control, hold others away and wait for the Fire Department.
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If a fire started on the job today, would you know where to find a fire extinguisher? Would you know how to use it?
Dry chemical extinguishers are effective against flammable liquids and electrical fires. They can also be used on small wood and paper fires.
Remember that the extinguisher is only as effective as the person using it. To extinguish a fire quickly, spray back and forth across the fire in a rapid motion, pushing the flame back and eventually extinguishing it.
Don’t break or tamper with the seal on any extinguisher unless you are going to use it. Once it has been used, it should be replaced immediately, even though the gauge shows only partial discharge. Check extinguishers frequently to ensure they are fully charged and ready to work when you need them.
In case of fire:
- Keep calm.
- Report the fire immediately to your supervisor or fire department, giving the location, your name and telephone extension, if applicable.
- Always consider the safety of all personnel, including yourself; first; then direct your attention to the protection of property.
- Do you know the phone number to call in a fire emergency?
The ABC’s of Fire Extinguishers
We often talk about how there is a right tool for every job – but did you know that there’s also a right extinguisher for every fire? The class of an extinguisher, identified on its nameplate, corresponds to the class or classes of fire the extinguisher controls. On most construction jobs, we are concerned with Class A, B and C fires.
Consequently, the best extinguisher to have on a job is a multi-purpose Class ABC extinguisher, which contains a dry, powdered chemical under pressure. The following describes the classes of fire and the kind of extinguisher that can be used on each.
Class A Fires
These include wood, paper, trash, and other materials that have glowing embers when they burn.
Extinguisher to Use: For Class A fires, you need to use a Class A or Class ABC extinguisher. Always remember that a Class A extinguisher contains water and should be used only on a Class A fire. Used on gasoline, it can spread the fire; used on electrical fires, it can cause you to be electrocuted.
Class B Fires
These are fires involving flammable liquids and gases, such things as gasoline, solvents, paint thinners, grease, LPG, and acetylene. Extinguisher to Use: Use Class B or Class ABC extinguishers.
Class C Fires
These are fires in energized electrical equipment. Extinguisher to Use: Use a Class BC or Class ABC extinguisher.
Important Tips to Remember
- Use the fire extinguisher whose class corresponds to the class of the fire.
- Never use a Class A extinguisher, which contains water or foam, on a liquid or electrical fire.
- Know where extinguishers are located and how to use them. Follow the directions printed on the label.
- Keep the area around the fire extinguisher clear for easy access.
- Don’t hide the extinguisher by hanging coats, rope, or other materials on it.
- Take care of the extinguishers just as you do your tools.
- Never remove tags from extinguishers. They indicate the last time the extinguisher was serviced and inspected.
- Report defective or suspect extinguishers to your Supervisor, so that they can be replaced or repaired.
- When inspecting extinguishers, look for cracked hoses, plugged nozzles, and corrosion. Also, look for damage that may have been done by equipment running into the extinguishers.
- Don’t use extinguishers for purposes other than fighting fires.
Obviously, nobody wants a fire. However, if one starts, know what extinguishers to use and how to use them.
Fire Extinguishers and the Fire Triangle
In order to understand how fire extinguishers work, you first need to know a little bit about fire.
Four things must be present at the same time in order to produce fire:
- Enough oxygen to sustain combustion
- Enough heat to raise the material to its ignition temperature
- Some sort of fuel or combustible material
- The chemical, exothermic reaction that is fire
Oxygen, heat, and fuel are frequently referred to as the “fire triangle.” Add in the fourth element, the chemical reaction, and you actually have a fire “tetrahedron.” The important thing to remember is take any of these four things away, and you will not have a fire (or the fire will be extinguished).
Fire extinguishers put out fire by taking away one or more elements of the fire triangle/tetrahedron. Fire safety is all about keeping fuel sources and ignition sources separate.
Which Fire Extinguisher Should I Use?
Fire prevention and good housekeeping go hand in hand for obvious reasons. As we all know, fires can start anywhere and at anytime — this is why it’s so important to know how to use a fire extinguisher correctly and to know which extinguisher to use for different types of fires.
CLASS ‘A’ FIRES – These fires consist of wood, paper, rags, and ordinary combustible materials. These are all the kinds of materials typically found on a construction site.
- Recommended Extinguishers – Water, through use of a hose, pump-type water cans, pressurized extinguishers, and (ABC) dry chemical extinguishers.
- Fighting the Fire – Put lots of water on the fire and soak it completely, even the embers.
CLASS ‘B’ FIRES – These consist of flammable liquids, oil and grease.
- Recommended Extinguishers – (ABC) dry chemical type, foam, and carbon dioxide. Any of these will do a good job extinguishing the fire.
- Fighting the Fire – Start at the base of the fire and use a sweeping motion from left to right always keeping the fire in front of you.
CLASS ‘C’ FIRES – Electrical fires, usually involving some type of electrical equipment
- Recommended Extinguishers – Carbon dioxide and (ABC) dry chemical type.
- Fighting the Fire – Use short bursts on the fire. When the electrical current is shut off on “Class ‘C’ Fire, it can become a Class ‘A’ Fire if materials around the original fire are ignited.
CLASS ‘D’ FIRES – Combustible metals.
- Recommended Extinguishers – Special agents approved by recognized testing laboratories.
- Fighting the Fire – Follow the fire extinguisher manufacture’s recommendations.
The key to fire extinguishers is knowing how to use them correctly. Be sure they’re always available in your work area. It’s too late to go searching for one when a fire breaks out.
A Toolbox Talk about Fire Extinguishers
When is the last time you inspected your fire extinguishers? Are they fully charged, easily accessible, visible, and ready for use? Or, are they covered with dust and hidden in some corner providing a false sense of security?
It’s all too common for fire extinguishers to be purchased with enthusiasm. However, because they are not regularly used, the excitement of their presence dwindles. What we fail to remember is that fire extinguishers are our first line of defense in the event of fire – shouldn’t this warrant a periodic and thorough inspection of them? You should always keep Fire extinguishers clean – this way, they attract attention and people can find them easier when needed. Also, they must be kept accessible to eliminate lost time when needed, and the rubber hose, horn or other dispensing component must be checked to guard against blockage.
The following briefly classifies fires and recommends the extinguisher to be used on each type:
- CLASS “A” FIRES: Ordinary combustible such as rubbish, paper, rags, scrap lumber, etc. These fires require a cooling agent to extinguish it. Recommended extinguishers: Water through use of hose, pump type water cans, pressurized extinguishers.
- CLASS “B” FIRES: Flammable liquids, oils and grease. Fires that require a smothering effect to extinguish it. Recommended extinguishers: Carbon Dioxide, Dry Chemical and Foam.
- CLASS “C” FIRES: Electrical equipment; Fires require a non-conducting, extinguishing agent. Recommended extinguishers: Carbon Dioxide and Dry Chemical.
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