Employers are required to implement fire protection and prevention programs in their workplaces. The following is information on the fire triangle, different types of fires and extinguishers, extinguisher use and fire prevention.
A fire is a chemical reaction that requires three elements to be present for the reaction to take place and continue. These three elements are heat (ignition source), fuel and oxygen. These elements are usually referred to as the fire triangle. If one of these elements is not present or removed, a fire will not start or a fire that is burning will be extinguished. Ignition sources can include torches, welding or grinding or any other operation or equipment that emits a spark or flame. Fuel sources can include combustible materials, flammable liquids and flammable gasses.
Fires are broken down into 5 categories A, B, C, D or K. Class A fires involve ordinary combustibles, such as paper, trash, wood or some plastics, these fires usually leave ash. Class B fires involve flammable gases or liquids. Class C fires involve energized electrical components. Class D fires involve metal (aluminum, magnesium, beryllium and sodium). Class K fires involve vegetable or animal cooking oils or fats.
There are many different types of fire extinguishers designed to extinguish different classes of fires. Most extinguishers on a construction site are A,B,C. Before using an extinguisher, know what type of fire you are extinguishing and that the extinguisher is for that class, if not it can make the fire worse. All employees shall be trained to use a fire extinguisher and training shall be conducted annually thereafter.
If you must use a fire extinguisher, remember the “PASS” methods of early stage fire fighting. PASS stands for Pull the pin on the extinguisher, Aim at the base of the fire, Squeeze the handle and Sweep side to side at the base of the fire. If you are trained and the fire is in the incipient stage you can use the fire extinguisher to try and extinguish the fire, but remember to keep yourself between the fire and an escape route in case it doesn’t extinguish or grows. If a fire cannot be extinguished using one full extinguisher, you should evacuate the area and let the fire department handle.
A 2A fire extinguisher shall be provided for each 3,000 sf. Travel distance from any point to the nearest extinguisher shall not exceed 100’. There should be at least one 2A fire extinguisher per floor. In multistory buildings they shall be located adjacent to stairways. A 10B extinguisher shall be provided within 50’ of an area with 5 gallons of flammable or combustible liquids are stored or used. Extinguishers shall be inspected on a monthly basis and maintained fully charged.
Only approved, closed containers shall be used for the storage of flammable and combustible liquids. When transferring flammable or combustible liquids from one container to another, the two containers must be bonded together to prevent static electricity. Safety cabinets allow for larger storage of flammable and combustible liquids indoors. 60 gallons or less of flammable liquids or 120 gallons or less of combustible liquids may be stored in a safety cabinet and up to three cabinets may be stored in one room. The cabinet must be labeled “Flammable-Keep Fire Away”. If a cabinet is not used only 25 gallons of either flammable or combustible liquids are allowed to be stored inside a building. Outside storage requires containers not to exceed 1,100 gallons in any one pile or area, piles shall be separated by a 5’ clearance, piles and tanks must be at least 20 feet away from a building, tanks that exceed 2,200 gallons shall be separated by a 5’ clearance and individual tanks greater than 1,100 gallons shall be separated by a 5’ clearance.