Quick Quiz - Where is the nearest fire extinguisher right now? Where is the closest portable fire extinguisher to your work area?
It is very important that we are aware of the locations of portable fire extinguishers because if a fire were to occur, in the panic of the moment seconds count.
More importantly, when is the last time you actually looked at the portable fire extinguisher in your work area?
- Is it charged fully?
- Is it damaged?
- Is it the proper type for the hazards in your area?
- Is it hung properly?
- Is it blocked?
- Has it been hydrostatically tested in the past 5-12 years?
In the construction industry, fatalities have been known to occur because corrosion build-up on the bottom of the fire extinguisher was serious enough that the extinguisher case ruptured when it was activated. The parts struck the employee in the chest.
A similar incident occurred in 1988. This fire extinguisher had a rubber boot or cap to protect the bottom of the cylinder case. Moisture had seeped in between the rubber and outside cylinder wall and caused the cylinder to corrode inside the boot.
Over time, this corrosion weakened the cylinder and it ruptured when the internal CO2 cylinder was activated. Other extinguishers of this type have been found to have the same type of corrosion underneath the rubber boot.
These stories remind us of the importance of In-depth inspections and routine testing of these devices. Especially if your fire extinguishers have rubber or plastic boots or caps and are located in potentially corrosive environments such as:
- outside, unprotected from the weather
- wet or damp environment, or
- near marine facilities or other waterfront buildings, especially those located near salt water
Many contractors have a third-party service inspect fire extinguishers monthly or on another periodic schedule. However, we also recommend taking personal responsibility because safety is everyone's responsibility. Have you looked at the extinguisher in your work area? Are you sure it has been looked at recently? Are you sure it wasn't missed during the last formal inspection?
We urge you to take a moment today and take a look at any extinguisher in your area. Let your superintendent or supervisor know if you see signs that it is damaged or uncharged so it can be taken out of service and a replacement installed... it may just save a life.