Fire & Safety Equipment

Extinguisher Safety

Any mechanical device works best and is most reliable with regular maintenance. This is especially true of fire extinguishers to ensure that, if called upon in the event of a fire, they will be at full effectiveness and safe for the operator to use.

The fire extinguisher must be appropriate to the hazard. For most purposes a multi-purpose ABC dry chemical extinguisher is the most practical. The dry chemical powder is non-toxic but can be an irritant if inhaled. The powder is corrosive and will likely damage surfaces it contacts.

Water filled extinguishers can be very effective for Class A fires, that is, ordinary combustibles such as wood and paper. However they can be very dangerous on fires involving electricity (Class C) or flammable liquids such as cooking oils, gas, diesel or alcohol (Class B). The can be kept only in a location where freezing is not a concern.

Carbon dioxide is most useful in location where the CO2 gas will be contained to maintain oxygen depletion. They are less effective where air movement will dilute the CO2 concentration (i.e. wind). It is not a particularly effective agent on Class A, ordinary combustible fires. The gas is contained in a high-pressure cylinder, which, if poorly maintained, corroded or damaged, is a potential bomb. Carbon dioxide gas being discharged from a fire extinguisher must be treated with caution as it represents a frostbite hazard.

Some older types of fire extinguishers can be health and safety concerns. Carbon tetrachloride, for example, is a carcinogenic agent and produces toxic gases in decomposition with heat. This type has been outlawed since 1969 although there are still some in existence.

Inverting foam type units, typically copper cylinders, make great ornaments but have not been allowed in service for many years. Again without proper maintenance, ruptured shells have causes serious leg and head injuries.

Purchasing and maintaining a fire extinguisher is a good start towards fire safety. Understanding how to use it is also very important. Sentinel Fire and Safety offers a variety of training courses tailored to the requirements of the user group (See Training) to meet this need.

Regardless of how diligent we are at prevention, a fire can still occur at any time. Here are a few pointers to assist you in minimizing personal risk or property damage.


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