Businesses have to be aware and plan for many types of possible emergencies. Fire safety is often at the top of the list. One of the critical questions is whether an employee should fight a small fire with an extinguisher or to evacuate.
Small fires can often be put out quickly by trained employees so that it does not spread. To do this safely, employees have to be aware and understand use and limitations of a fire extinguisher and the hazards. It is important to educate employees on how to use a fire extinguisher so they are able to react quickly and safely in the event of an emergency.
The following is some general information about portable fire extinguishers according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration:
Different types of fire extinguishers are designed to fight different types of fire. The three most common types of fire extinguishers are: air pressurized water, CO2 (carbon dioxide), and dry chemical. Employees should be aware of which fire extinguisher should be used for what type of fire.
To understand how fire extinguishers work, you need to understand a little about fire. Fire is a very rapid chemical reaction between oxygen and a combustible material, which results in the release of heat, light, flames, and smoke.
For fire to exist, the following four elements must be present at the same time:
▪ Enough oxygen to sustain combustion.
▪ Enough heat to raise the material to its ignition temperature.
▪ Some sort of fuel or combustible material.
▪ The chemical reaction that is fire.
Portable fire extinguishers apply an extinguishing agent that will either cool burning fuel, displace or remove oxygen, or stop the chemical reaction so a fire cannot continue to burn. When the handle of an extinguisher is compressed, agent is expelled out the nozzle. You can see the parts of a portable fire extinguisher in the image below.
All portable fire extinguishers must be approved by a nationally recognized testing laboratory to verify compliance with applicable standards.