• International Workplace
  • 18 December 2017

Training in fire safety equipment is crucial, reveals survey

A survey has revealed that nearly four in ten (38%) construction workers are using the wrong type of fire extinguisher to deal with electrical fires.

Commissioned by Bull Products (which specialises in developing life safety equipment), the survey found that 10% would use a foam extinguisher to put out an electrical fire.

Foam extinguishers are better suited to dealing with fires involving paper, wood, cloth, or plastic, as well as flammable liquids like paraffin, petrol, and oil. Smothering the fire with a foam film, they starve it of oxygen and cool burning materials.

Another 27% used ABC powder fire extinguishers (or dry powder extinguishers), which are suited to solids, flammable liquids and flammable gases – Class A, B, and C fires. They should never be used in small, confined spaces if there is a risk of inhaling the powder.

Both types of fire extinguisher can badly damage equipment that may be unaffected by the fire itself.

Canvassing the views of site managers and supervisors, and health and safety managers/officers, among others, the survey also revealed that 8% admitted they didn’t know which fire extinguisher they should use and 7% were unaware of the universal colour-coded system for fire extinguishers.

“Using the correct fire safety equipment is of utmost importance, and it’s crucial that health and safety managers train workers so that everyone on site is aware and understands what type of fire extinguishers to use and in what situation,”

said Bradley Markham, Director at Bull Products.

“Each year, there are 40,000 fires in the workplace, which can put the lives of workers at risk, but using the wrong type of fire extinguisher can also have major consequences.

“Not only can it maximise the spread of a fire, it can cause major damage to a site and equipment, thus costing companies millions of pounds to repair the damage.

“On an electrical fire, a C02 fire extinguisher is the safest option as it leaves no residue and is an ideal solution for extinguishing fires involving electrical appliances as it does not cause damage to the site.”

In the UK, the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RRO) and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (MHSWR) require employers to carry out a fire risk assessment, and to provide and maintain such fire precautions as are necessary to safeguard those who use the workplace. They also require employees to be provided with relevant information, instruction and training about fire precautions.

Under the RRO, responsibility for fire safety is that of the ‘Responsible Person’ for the building or premises. The ‘Responsible Person’ means, in relation to a workplace, the employer, if the workplace is to any extent under his control. The Responsible Person should assess the risks of fire and take steps to remove or reduce those risks. The RRO also imposes obligations in respect of firefighting, fire detection, emergency routes and exits, and procedures to deal with serious and imminent danger.