First let’s be very clear about what fire extinguishers are for, because it might not be immediately obvious. The main purpose of fire extinguishers are to assist in clearing an evacuation route to make for a clear and safe path to, well, safety. They can be used to put out small fires as well but that’s a secondary goal. OSHA requires that anyone who may be expected to use a fire extinguisher at work be trained in how to operate it. Here’s a brief rundown on the types of fire and a simple how-to on operating a fire extinguisher, but know that reading a blog isn’t a replacement for proper training and practice.
First, understand that there are several ‘classes’ of fires, broken down like this:
- Class A: Ash producing materials, such as wood or paper
- Class B: Chemical fires, such as gasoline, oils, etc.
- Class C: Energized electrical fires
- Class D: Metal fires
- Class K: Kitchen grease fires
Know what kind of fire you’re working with and whether or not the fire extinguisher available to you will work for the type of fire. While most fire extinguishers in work areas are classified as ABC, but you need to identify this before using them on a fire.
How to Use a Fire Extinguisher
A simple acronym for using a fire extinguisher is PASS:
Pull the pin.
Aim the nozzle at the base of the fire.
Squeeze the lever.
Sweep the nozzle from side to side.
The number one rule is this if you are not comfortable, evacuate the building and let the fire department put the fire out.
Office Fire Prevention Tips
The best offense is a good defense, and that applies to fire safety as well. The most effective firefighting measure is working to prevent them from occurring in the first place. The following tips should assist you in preventing any office fires from happening.
This is perhaps the biggest weak spot for many offices: overloading circuits, using multi-plugs (like surge protectors) plugged into multi-plugs plugged into multi-plugs. This is no good. Most office circuits are tied into 20-amp breakers, going over this amperage is a recipe for disaster. Extension cords are another potential weakness. Make sure any extension cord being used is rated for commercial use. Cords can also become damaged and need to be replaced. Make sure to always remove cords by their plugs, not by pulling on the cord, and that the cord isn’t being frayed by sharp edges. Inspect all cords at least once a year to make sure they’re insulation isn’t damaged.
Inspection Tip: Mark your cords with colored tape to denote when it was inspected.
While we’re on the subject of electrical safety, take a look around your office kitchen. Microwaves, toasters, coffee pots, are all common appliances. Make sure someone is designated to turn them all off at the end of the day.
An appliance worth its own category (but for brevity will be listed here) are space heaters! Remember how we talked about the breakers? Space heaters have a huge draw and can trip breakers easily. Some employees bring in their own during the winter to keep their work space warm. Regardless of where the heater came from it needs to be inspected to ensure it’s in working order has the proper safety features.
Designated Smoking Areas
Go figure, smoking is a huge source for potential fires. Lighting cigarettes creates burning material and needs matches or lighters to get going. Make sure if there is any smoking from employees that there is a designated area that is clear from potential flammable materials, equipped with butt cans, and maybe even a nearby fire extinguisher.
Keeping combustible materials to a minimum will decrease the potential fuel for a fire.
If you work with flammable materials such as oily rags you need to take special precautions. The workplace should have special self-closing containers that are non-combustible and flammable material cabinets should be used for securing.
You can find out some more and the exact details from OSHA’s Fact Sheet on Fire Safety here. When it comes to fire safety it’s on all of us to do our best, know our roles and how we can help prevent them. Installing fire systems, extinguishers, and alarms are all huge benefits should the worst ever occur. Have questions, or need a Fire Prevention Consultation? Contact us today and connect with one of our local branches, reach us at: 804-745-1117 for a no obligation Fire Survey so together, we can make sure your business is fire protected! Or, go online now LINK and get the process started!
- office safety