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Max People Health & Safety Toolbox Talk

Fire Extinguisher protocol - upskill yourself in the unfortunate event of a fire

80% of all fires in commercial properties are extinguished in the early stages by members of the public, without the need for firefighters. Of these fires, 90% are extinguished using a fire extinguisher.

When to use an extinguisher

Only use fire extinguishers when it is safe to do so, e.g. when the fire is no larger than a waste paper basket or pot on a stove. Always have a safe path of escape, and ensure Fire and Emergency has been called.

Types of fire extinguisher

Dry powder extinguishers (identified by a white band) ABE dry powder extinguishers are suitable for all types of fires except cooking oils and fats.
Carbon dioxide extinguishers (identified by a black band) are suitable for use where the fire is located close to electrically energised equipment as they are non-conductive, clean and safe. These extinguishers have a horn at the end of the hose. Due to the extreme cold of the carbon dioxide that is expelled from the extinguisher, it should not be touched.

Water extinguishers (no colour band) are only really suitable for use in tackling freely burning materials such as paper, cloth, wood and furniture. They should not be used against flammable and combustible liquids (e.g. oil and petroleum) or cooking oils and fats as the water will merely spread the flames.
Foam extinguishers (identified by a blue colour band) are characterised by their simple method of operation. They are ideal for fires involving flammable liquids.
Wet Chemical extinguishers (identified by an oatmeal colour band) are ideal for freely burning materials such as paper, cloth, wood and furniture and with cooking oil and fat fires. It is dangerous to use these Fire Extinguishers on live electrical equipment.

Which one do I use?

The easy to understand guide (see below) clearly shows which extinguisher is used for which class of fire and should help you in your decision.

Extinguishant Class A Water Paper Plastics Class B Flammable Liquids Class C Flammable Gasses Class E Electrically energised equipment Class F Cooking oils and fats Comments
Water Yes No No No No Dangerous if used on flammable liquid, energised electrical equipment and cooking oil/fat fires
Wet Chemical Yes No No No Yes Dangerous if used on energised electrical equipment 
Foam Yes Yes No NO Limited Dangerous if used on energised electrical equipment 
ABE Powder Yes Yes Yes Yes No Look carefully at the extinguisher to determine if it is a BE or ABE Unit as the capability is different
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Limited Limited Limited Yes Limited Not Suitable for outdoor use

Operating a fire extinguisher

When operating a fire extinguisher, use the 'PTASS' technique:

  • Pull the safety pin or remove the clip.
  • Test squirt the extinguisher to make sure it is working.
  • Aim the nozzle at the base of the fire from a safe distance. Most extinguishers are designed to be operated from about 2 - 3 metres away.
  • Squeeze the handles.
  • Sweep the extinguisher from side to side while aiming at the base of the fire.

Remember team! Safety is just how we do things around here.

Any suggestions or improvements in regard to Health and Safety on site can be emailed to the Health & Safety Manager.