The reality is, a fire can occur in any work environment. From oil rigs to corporate offices, everyone should know how to properly react in the event of a fire in the workplace. That’s why our workplace safety tip of the week is dedicated to understanding how fires work and how to ensure your safety should a fire occur.
For a fire to exist, three elements must be present (known as the fire triangle):
Heat is require to cause the fuel source to ignite and oxygen helps to contiguously fuel the fire even after the initial fuel has been depleted. Preventing a fire from occurring is the best way to ensure your safety; thus, it is important that you learn to identify situations where these three elements may be at play.
Contrary to popular belief, water is not always the best method of extinguishing fires. For example, let’s say the fire was caused by an electrical discharge, oil, or gas. Adding water will potentially make the problem worse by further feeding the electrical shortage and spreading the oil/gas beyond the ignition source. For the most common fuel types (such as Class A, B, C, D, and K fires) a regulation fire extinguisher will be your best option.
How to use a fire extinguisher: PASS
Should you find yourself in a situation where the use of a fire extinguisher is necessary, remember the following instructions on how to use a fire extinguisher to maximize its efficiency:
Step one: Pull the pin.
Step two: Aim the fire extinguisher, making sure to point the nozzle towards the base of the fire.
Step three: Squeeze the handle to release the extinguishing agent.
Step four: Sweep the nozzle from side to side until the fire is out.
Basic dos and don’ts of extinguishing fires:
DO confine the fire as best as possible.
DO be cautious of backdrafts with doors and windows. If air is being sucked under a closed door or smoke is coming out of the top of a door, do not open the door.
DO have someone else with you when attempting put out a fire in case something goes wrong.
DO attempt to identify the fuel of the fire. Using the wrong extinguisher agent (for example, water) can potentially make the fire worse.
DO call 911. It’s possible that the fire could re-ignite.
DO make sure that you have two ways to exit the area of the fire. Fires can be volatile.
DON’T try to suppress a large fire. Remember the 5 second rule! If it takes more than 5 seconds to put out or a fire, evacuate immediately.
DON’T enter areas that are filled with smoke.
DON’T turn your back on a fire when evacuating.
DON’T get too close to the fire. If using a fire extinguishing, stay at or near the maximum range of the extinguisher.
DON’T touch door handles. Metal handles can get extremely hot if there is a fire behind the door and cause severe burns. Instead, lightly touch the door itself. If the door is warm or hot, do not open the door.
DON’T try to recover personal belongings before evacuating. Your personal safety should be your top priority.
Remember, these safety rules do not change if you are wearing flame resistant clothing or other personal protective equipment. Your uniform and safety gear is your last line of defense and should be treated as such. When in doubt about your ability to identify or extinguish a fire, the safest action is to remove yourself from the hazard area immediately.