FIRE SAFETYPreventing fires Preparing for firesPutting out firesYou Can Make a Difference
Fires don't just happen by themselves. In fact, almost every fire can be prevented. Yet many employees don't know how to help ensure their own and their co-workers safety. Some employees have a casual attitude about fire: they don't fully understand how fires can cost lives and jobs and cause major damage. Others may think fire safety is someone else's responsibility. But fire safety is everybody's concern. By knowing how fires start and spread, what steps you can take to prevent and prepare for fires, and how to put fires out, you can reduce fire hazards at work and at home.Fire Drill: How Safety-Minded are You?
How much do you know about fire safety? Check you knowledge by answering the following questions. Answers are at the end; note that there may be more than one correct answer.
You see oil-soaked rags thrown in a corner. Would you:
Leave them alone because fires can't start without a flame.
Call maintenance to have them removed in a closed metal container.
Take a few to store in your car trunk for later use.Flammable liquids should be stored and handled:
b) In black containers
c) In approved safety containersA fire has started and is spreading. Would you:
a) Alert everyone to the danger
b) Head for the nearest elevator
c) Take the time to find someone who knows what to doA "multi-purpose" portable fire extinguisher:
a) Can be used on most kinds of fires
b) Can be used to control medium to large fires
c) Will usually discharge for several minutesAnswers:
b; a and c; a; a Fatal Attraction: Ingredients of Fire
Take some fuel, add enough heat, mix with oxygen and you have a recipe that will get you a fire every time. Allow the fire to spread, and your job - or even your life - could go up in smoke. The ingredients of fire aren't very mysterious; in fact, they are always around us. By becoming more aware of how these familiar ingredients cause fires, you can help prevent them from coming together and be better able to control them in case a fire occursHow Fires Start
The three basic ingredients of fire - fuel, heat and oxygen - together they make up the "fire triangle." When the triangle is formed, a chemical reaction happens and a fire is started. The fire will continue to burn until one or more of the ingredient is removed, or the chemical reaction is stopped. Fuel
Since almost anything will burn (like paper, wood, an oily rag or even metal dust), just about anything can become fuel for a fire. Alone, most fuels don't present a fire hazard. But mix a fuel with oxygen and enough heat, and a fire can start.Heat
Most fuels need a source of heat (like a spark or friction) to reach their burning point. Other fuels, such as some oils, readily mix with oxygen and create their own heat. When left in a small space with little ventilation, the heat builds up. Things really start to "cook" as the fuel reaches its burning point and bursts into flames (a process called spontaneous combustion).Oxygen
Oxygen is always present in the air we breathe. When oxygen mixes with a fuel and enough heat, burning take place (a chemical process called combustion).How Fires Spread
A fire spreads and becomes stronger by using more of the ingredients that make up the fire triangle.
1. Fire gives of heat, which can ignite more fuel.
2. Fire seeks more oxygen in order to burn.
3. Hot gas rises, and spread out when stopped by a ceiling or roof. When the trapped gas can't spread any further, it builds up more heat, igniting new fuel.
4. Fire seeks other ways to spread (for example, through open doors and windows). Fire can also spread through ventilation and air conditioner shafts, and holes in walls or ceilings.Sure-Fire Hints: Preventing Fires
You can reduce the risk of fires in your workplace by keeping the fire triangle ingredients apart. While it's hard to keep oxygen out of the mix, you can keep heat and fuel from uniting by looking for possible hazards. Remember to report any hazards you discover but can't safely take care of yourself.Maintain Equipment
Provide enough ventilation so equipment doesn't overheat.
Keep equipment and appliances clean of oil or debris that can burn easily.
Be alert to unusual odours: they may be the first sign of bad wiring or overheating caused by friction.Practice Good Housekeeping
Store flammable liquids and gasses properly in indicated locations, away from ignition sources.
Keep your work area clean so materials like dust (for example, from metal and wood) or paper don't become fuel for a fire.
Don't overload electrical outlets or step on extension cords.Follow Instructions
Read and follow warning labels and material safety data sheets (MSDS).
Use and dispose of materials properly, following your company's procedures.
Observe posted instructions.Be Careful if You Smoke
Smoke only where it's safe and allowed.
Make sure neither you nor anyone else has left cigarettes smoldering in wastebaskets or on the edge of furniture.
Put cigarettes out in large, deep ashtrays so they're less likely to fall out.Be Aware of Heat Sources
Keep fuels away from open flames, sparks and hot surfaces.
Use grounding wires when moving flammable chemicals so static electricity doesn't ignite vapours.
Keep space heaters well away from fuels.Preparing for Fires
Accidents can happen at any time, even when everyone practices fire prevention. Be ready for a fire emergency by going to your employer's safety meetings and having a plan of action now. Remember: your safety during a fire depends on how well you've prepared yourself before the fire starts.Follow Procedures
Know the sound and location of your fire alarm, and how to use it.
If you're disabled, know which co-worker and alternative will be ready to assist you.
Know where everyone will meet outside the building.
Don't carry burning items outside the building, or go back inside for anything.
Keep the telephone number of your fire department handy.Plan Your Escape Route
Know the fastest means of escape from the building and practice your escape route.
Have a second escape route planned in case your first route is blocked by smoke or fire.
Don't plan on using the elevator: many elevators are heat-activated and many go directly to the floor where the fire is located.Keep Your Escape Route Clear
Keep passageways and exits clear of boxes, trash cans and other items.
Keep your work area organised so you can move out of it without delay.
Don't block or lock fire doors.When Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: The ABC's - and D's - of Extinguishers
If a fire starts, fire extinguishers are your first line of defense. Each type of extinguisher removes one or more ingredients from the fire triangle or interrupts the chemical reaction. By knowing how fires are classified and how to choose and use the proper extinguisher, you may be able to save lives and property during a fire. Keep in mind that most extinguishers in the workplace are portable, and aren't designed to fight large or spreading fires. If a fire is too large, or if you don't have the right type of extinguisher, leave the building and let the firefighters do the job.Classes of Fire
Fires are usually divided into four classes. Each class of fire can be put out by a different type of extinguisher.Types of Extinguishers
Extinguishers are labelled with one or more letters for the class or classes of fire they can extinguish. Most extinguishers are related for class A, B or C fires.
A: Ordinary combustibles. Wood, cloth, paper, rubber, rubbish and any other common materials that burn easily.
B: Flammable liquids/gasses. Vapours from flammable liquids like oils, petrol, grease, some paints and solvents. Gasses like acetylene and butane.
C: Electrical equipment. Energised electrical equipment and wiring, including fuse boxes, circuit breakers, machinery, appliances and electrical cords.
D: Combustible metals. Metals like magnesium, titanium, lithium and potassium. Also metal chips and dust.Water for Class A fires.
Cools to remove heat; Do not use on Class B fires (may spread burning liquid), Class C fires (water conducts electricity) or Class D fires (may cause an explosion).Foam for Class A and B fires.
Smothers and provides some cooling; do not use on Class C fires (foam conducts electricity) or Class D fires (may cause an explosion).Multipurpose Dry Chemical for Class A, B and C fires.
Smothers fire and/or interrupts the chemical reaction; do not use on Class D fires (may cause an explosion).CO2 and Halon Gas for Class A, B and C fires.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) smothers fire; halo interrupts the chemical reaction. Based on size of fire, use halon on Class BC or ABC fires; use CO2 on Class BC fires; after extinguishing, leave enclosed areas quickly. Don't use either gas on Class D fires (may cause an explosion).Dry Chemical for Class B and C fires.
Smothers fire by reducing the oxygen supply; not very effective on Class A fires; do not use on Class D fires (may speed up the chemical reaction).Dry Powder for Class D fires.
Smothers fire by reducing the oxygen supply; use different types of dry powder extinguishers for different metals.Using Extinguishers
To operate most portable fire extinguishers, remember the word PASS (pull, aim, squeeze, sweep). But because some models differ, be sure to read the directions on the extinguisher in your workplace. Also keep in mind that extinguishers discharge for very short periods of time - often less than a minute.
Pull the pin
Aim at the base of the fire
Squeeze the handle
Sweep from side to sideHot tip:
Only use the extinguisher if you can keep your back to a safe escape route.Burning Issues: Finding the Hazards at Work
When employees don't take steps to stop hazards and prepare for fires, the chances of a fire starting increase. This is a list of fire hazards and unsafe behaviours:
Work are not kept clean
Faulty electrical wiring or overloaded outlet or circuit
Appliance can ignite fuel
Company safety meeting ignored
Poor ventilation builds up heat
Extinguisher isn't easy to reach
Flammable liquids/gasses close to heat source
Flammable liquids/gasses improperly stored
Oily rags not disposed of properly
Possible escape route blockedBurning Issues: Finding the Hazards at Home
The guidelines you follow for prevention and preparing for fires at work apply to home fire safety, too. Ask your family to read this list of fire hazards:
Flammable liquids or gases stored and use incorrectly
Flammable liquids or gases near heat source
Possible escape route blocked
Lit cigarette can ignite fuel
Overheated fuels too near source to burn
Overloaded electric outlet
Smoke detector battery needs to be replaced
Oily rags and trash can ignite spontaneously.Hot tip:
Be sure to test smoke detectors at least twice a year and replace batteries yearly.Staying Cool Under Fire: Plan for Safety
By practicing fire safety on the job, you'll be better able to prevent fires and be ready to make a decision if a fire occurs. In case of a fire, keep in mind that saving lives is your first responsibility. Sound the alarm and be sure people are leaving the building. Call the fire department, and use the right extinguisher if the fire looks like it can be controlled.