Safety and health in the workplace involves educating employees on fire prevention. But there’s one aspect of fire prevention that more often than not, fails to get mentioned at most fire safety trainings. Teaching how to use a fire extinguisher should be included in your next fire safety training. Like most safety and health trainings, be sure to include other background and underlying information of fire basics in addition to these so students will understand why extinguishers do what they do. Here are two fire extinguishing categories to teach; Fuel Classifications and Types of Extinguishers.
Fuel Classifications – Fires are classified into class A, B, C or D. The classification of a fire depends on the type of fuel or product that is burning. It’s very important to use the correct extinguisher because if the wrong one is used, the fire could be made worse. Someone could get seriously hurt. For this reason, a user must first understand the classification of the fuel.
- Class A – This fuel is the most common material in our everyday lives and in our homes. Class A materials include cloth, wood, paper or plastics. This includes almost everything in our home and offices.
- Class B – Class B fuels generally are in working areas like garages, maintenance areas, shops and factories. Class B materials are flammable gases and liquids such as gasoline. Other chemicals that are class B fuels are grease, oil and acetones.
- Class C – Class C fuels are electrical or energize equipment. Live electricity is what makes the equipment fuel, therefore that equipment has to be plugged in.
- Class D – Class D fuels are metals. Think -um- when thinking Class D fuel. Metals such as potassium, sodium, aluminum and magnesium. This type of fuel requires special extinguishing agents that are not listed in this article.
Types of Extinguishers – Now that we know how burn-able materials are classified into fuel, it makes sense to learn which type of extinguisher is used for each.
The three most common types of extinguishers are; Water, Carbon dioxide and Dry chemical.
- Water – Water filled extinguishers are essentially large squirt guns. They are filled with ordinary water. Water extinguishers are silver and about 2 feet high. They weigh about 20 to 25 pounds. The water is kept under air pressure so it will spray when needed. One of the ways that you eliminate fire is to take away the heat. An ordinary water extinguisher can be used to eliminate heat from class A fires (wood, cloth, paper) only. Never attempt to extinguish a class B, C or D fire with a water fire extinguisher.
- Carbon dioxide – Carbon dioxide extinguishers are filled with carbon dioxide and are also under pressure. They can be anywhere from 5 to 100 pounds. Carbon dioxide is a nonflammable gas. It puts out class B and C fires because it displaces or takes away the oxygen. The carbon dioxide in the extinguisher comes out very cold. For this reason it cools the fire as well.
- Dry Chemical ABC – A dry chemical extinguisher is also identified as an ABC extinguisher. They are red and range from 5 to 20 pounds. A dry chemical extinguisher is pressurized nitrogen and filled with a yellow powder composite of monoammonium phosphate. The extinguisher coats the fuel with a thin layer of dust, thus separating the oxygen away from the fuel. Dry chemical extinguishers are effective at extinguishing electrical (class C) fires as well as class A and B. ABC extinguishers are preferred because they are versatile and they can be used in almost any situation.