Fire extinguishers are a vital part of your business' fire safety plan, but not all fire extinguishers are the same. In order to find the extinguisher that's right for you, you need to know the difference between the different classes of extinguishers and anticipate the types of fires that might occur in your workplace.
Different classes of fire
Different types of fire extinguisher exist because different types of fire exist. In Australia, these different types are separated into six categories. Class A fires result from the ignition of general combustibles like cloth or paper, while Class B fires result from flammable liquids. Class C fires are caused by flammable gases, while Class D fires are caused by combustible metals like magnesium. Class E fires result from electrical devices or wiring. Finally, Class F fires are caused by cooking oils or fats.
Choosing the right solution
Each type of fire may require a different type of fire extinguisher. For instance, a water-based extinguisher is ideal for putting out Class A fires. However, it can be deadly if used on a Class B fire; the water will turn to steam instantly, expanding and scattering burning liquid. Similarly, water-based extinguishers aren't suitable for use on electrical fires because of the danger of the water conducting electricity. By contrast, powder extinguishers are useful against liquid and electrical fires but have little effect on oils or fats.
Evaluate the danger
Choosing the right fire extinguishers therefore means anticipating the types of fires that might occur in your workplace. Class D fires, for instance, typically only occur in specialised manufacturing businesses, while Class A fires could occur anywhere. Class F fires are a serious concern in kitchens, but not an issue in most offices, while garages and other businesses that keep fuel and lubricants on hand need to be prepared for Class B fires. An assessment of these risks will be part of your fire safety plan. Once you know what type of fires you're likely to be dealing with, you can look for the extinguishers you need. Be sure that you buy fire extinguishers that are clearly labelled as complying with the relevant Australian Standards.
Fire safety strategy
Buying the right fire extinguishers is only one part of the larger task of ensuring fire safety. Extinguishers need to be displayed and mounted in a way that complies with fire safety regulations, with signs identifying them. This mounting and display will form part of a larger comprehensive fire safety plan. By combining the right extinguishers with a broad safety strategy, you can minimise the risk to your business and employees for years to come.
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