In the event of a fire, the correct use of a portable fire extinguisher could mean the difference between suffering a minor loss and a major one. If fire extinguishers are provided for employee use in the work place, it’s critical that employees understand when and how to use them.
Fire Extinguisher Basics
Do not attempt to fight a fire with a fire extinguisher unless:
- You have been trained to use a fire extinguisher correctly and feel comfortable using one.
- The fire is still in the incipient (beginning) stage. If the fire gets too large or out of control, evacuate.
- You know the type of combustible material burning. There are 5 classes of fires.
- Class A fires involve ordinary combustibles, such as paper, wood, cloth, rubber or plastics. Common extinguishing media includes water or dry chemical.
- Class B fires involve flammable liquids, greases or gases. Common extinguishing media includes foam, carbon dioxide or dry chemical.
- Class C fires involve live electrical equipment. Common extinguishing media includes CO2 or dry chemical. However, the actual burning product may belong to the Class A category.
- Class D fires involve combustible metals such as magnesium and sodium. Special extinguishing agents, approved by recognized testing laboratories, are needed when working with these materials.
- Class K fires involve cooking oils and greases. Special extinguishing agents, approved by recognized testing laboratories, are needed when working with these materials.
- There are “clues” that electrical hazards exist. For example, if a GFCI keeps tripping while you are using a power tool, there is a problem. Don’t keep resetting the GFCI and continue to work. A qualified electrical worker must evaluate the “clue” and decide what action should be taken to control the hazard.
- Tripped circuit breakers and blown fuses indicate too much current is flowing in a circuit. This could be due to several factors, such as malfunctioning equipment or a short between conductors. The cause must be determined in order to control the hazard.
- An electrical tool, appliance, wire, or connection that feels warm may indicate too much current in the circuit or equipment. You need to evaluate the situation and determine your risk.
- A burning odor may indicate overheated insulation.
- All electrical equipment used near water (or outside) should be plugged into a GFCI.
When using an extinguisher, remember the acronym P-A-S-S
- P – Pull. Pull the locking pin (usually attached with a zip tie) before using the fire extinguisher.
- A – Aim. Aim the fire extinguisher at the base of the fire. Not at the flames or smoke.
- S – Squeeze. Squeeze the lever of the fire extinguisher to operate and discharge.
- S – Sweep. Stand 8-10 ft. back and sweep the fire extinguisher back and forth at the base of the fire to extinguish, moving closer as it starts to diminish.