Fire extinguishers are a vital aspect of fire safety for both homes and businesses, and everyone should be aware of their maintenance, care, and use. Since most people never need to use them, it’s extremely easy for fire extinguisher myths to grow over time as they sit there waiting for their time of need. But fire extinguishers usually operate the best when you understand how they work.
Hopefully, this article can debunk five of the most pernicious fire extinguisher myths out there. If your business requires maintenance or training on your building’s fire extinguishers, the expert technicians of Ontario’s All Protect Systems, Inc. are ready to serve you. They’ve been offering fire safety products and services to their community since 1996.
Myth 1) Only one extinguisher is necessary for each building.
While the Ontario Fire Code does require a fire extinguisher in every building, one may not be enough. Each hazardous occupancy within a building must have its own extinguisher as well as every hazardous operation or process located outside the building. If you have any doubt, one of All Protect’s experts or the Ontario Fire Marshal can instruct you as to where you need to furnish extinguishers.
Myth 2) Fire extinguishers don’t need service.
The Ontario Fire Code requires that portable Fire extinguishers require regular inspections and periodic maintenance. Each month, a representative of the property should perform a visual inspection to ensure that the extinguishers are in the designated spot, accessible, free from physical damage and rust, and have clear, legible labels and unbroken seals.
Portable fire extinguishers need to be inspected annually in accordance with NFPA10 and Ontario Fire Code. In addition to regular inspections fire extinguishers also require maintenance every six years and every twelve years from the date of manufacture.
Every six years dry chemical extinguishers are required to be discharged, all components thoroughly examined and the extinguisher recharged. Every twelve years from the date of manufacture the extinguisher cylinder requires hydro-static testing (pressure testing with water) and internal examination. This ensures that the cylinder is free of defects and can withstand pressure. If it fails the test, then it would have to be replaced.
Myth 3) Fire extinguishers should be periodically tapped.
This myth comes from experience with older extinguishers that had chemicals that could cake and harden inside the tank. With these models, it was advisable to tap them with a mallet or turn them upside down and shake them to keep the mixture primed to operate correctly.
With the modern chemicals used in today’s foam-based extinguishers, tapping or shaking them is not only unnecessary, it can even be detrimental. No fire extinguisher manufacturer recommends agitating the contents of its products. Performing these sorts of actions on your extinguishers can damage them and make them less effective.
Myth 4) Fire extinguishers don’t need mounting on a bracket..
Fire Extinguishers shall be mounted securely on a hanger intended for the extinguisher, it is required that they be mounted so they are readily accessible in the event of an emergency. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) requires extinguishers to be mounted at specific heights depending on the size of the extinguisher. As an example an extinguisher having a gross weight not exceeding 40 pounds shall be installed so the top of the extinguisher is not more than 5 feet above the floor.
Myth 5) Any fire extinguisher can put out a fire.
Even though most fires look the same, several combustible items could potentially cause it, and fire extinguishers are equipped with different extinguishing agents to put out various types of fires. Your fire extinguishers must be the right kind for the type of fire hazard nearby. Fire types are divided into five basic categories: A-D and K, please see Kidde extinguishers for more information.
The Canadian equivalent of OSHA is the CCOHS –Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety and it follows its own Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) standards. These standards are typically provincial and as Canada has 14 jurisdictions, each follows its own set of OH&S legislation.
Unfortunately, most Canadian organizations are not cognizant of this difference and mistakenly refer to OSHA standards in Canada when they in fact mean OH&S standards. Nevertheless, it’s worth noting however that many of these OH&S standards are very similar to the American OSHA standards.
With that in mind, let’s turn to the OH&S/OSHA standards that require a Fire Prevention Plan.
OSHA Standards Requiring a Fire Prevention Plan
Because industries are varied and the safety needs of each are unique, workplace safety has been classified into four main OSHA standards. These are:
Where can you find OSHA standards specific to your industry?
While Fire Prevention Plans aren’t compulsory, all organizations are encouraged to have one. An FPP is only mandatory when explicitly demanded by an OSHA standard. For example, for those working in construction, standards that would necessitate a Fire Prevention Plan are use and storage of:
Armed with this knowledge, how do we go about creating a Fire Prevention Plan? Let’s explore.
3-Steps to Creating an Effective Fire Prevention Plan
Step 1: Situational Analysis
The first step is figuring out the OSHA standard(s) applicable to your industry and assessing what’s necessary to include in your FPP.
From here a careful analysis of your workplace/industrial site must be carried out. This is done in order to identify all major fire hazards.
Fire hazards are materials, substances, and equipment that augment the chances of an accidental fire starting.
Remember for a fire to occur there must be three main elements – fuel, heat and oxygen. So this step is key in identifying two of the three ‘fire triangle’ dangers.
That’s not all. But with identification comes protocol for handling and storing the dangerous materials as well as procedures on how to best safeguard ignition sources.
The type of fire protection equipment needed to control the identified fire hazards will also be spelled out in this step.
Step 2: Combustible Waste Management
There must be a plan in place to control the accumulation and subsequent disposal of combustible waste materials. Flammable waste substances should not be kept on-site for extended periods of time with no propositions on how to eliminate them.
A well-thought-out FPP will include strategies that detail how these substances will be removed from the site.
Under this step will also be guidelines for routine maintenance of the safeguards on all heat-producing machinery and equipment. These safeguards are pivotal in preventing the ignition of combustible elements identified in step 1.
Step 3: Employee Awareness
Because Fire Prevention Plans are employee-safety-centric, a core part of creating your workplace FPP involves carefully selecting the employees who will be responsible for equipment maintenance in order to avert incidental ignition of flammable materials.
Their names and respective job titles are to be mentioned in the FPP. So too are the names of those workers tasked with control of the fuel hazard sources.
Lastly, where employees are concerned, this FPP in its entirety must be made available to them in writing and stored in a place that’s easily accessible to all.
Employees have a right to be briefed on all fire hazards they will be exposed to as well as educated on the company’s fire safety plan.
Resources to Help You Write Your FPP
Drafting a Fire Prevention Plan can be difficult if you don’t know the local legislation concerning workplace safety.
If you’re in Ontario and unsure about OSHA standards, a consultation with your local fire department or fire specialist is in order.
In case you’re ready to get started with a rough draft, here are various FPP templates you can model yours after:
Whether you’re concerned about fire prevention for home or the workplace, the All Protect Systems team is on hand to give you the advice you need to boost fire safety wherever you are.
We’re also experts in the service, installation, and maintenance of fire alarm systems, fire warning systems, fire extinguishers, exit lighting, emergency lighting, emergency backup generators, gas detection and sprinkler systems, as well as the creation of fire safety plans.