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The Safety Brief In our podcasts we give short but valuable overviews
and insights into how contractors and safety managers
can be even more effective in protecting their workers.
In our podcasts we give short but valuable overviews and insights into how contractors and safety managers can be even more effective in protecting their workers.

Fire Extinguisher Operation

Fire extinguisher operation is not as easy as point-and-shoot. We explain the types of fires, the types of extinguishers, and how to use them.

What’s burning? Is the source wood, gasoline, or electrical? What’s inside the fire extinguisher makes a difference. In this podcast, Dan describes the types of fires, and the various types of fire extinguishers to use on them.

You’re not invincible with a fire extinguisher. Make sure someone is calling the fire department. If you can’t put out the flame in five seconds, the job may be too big.

Listen to this special edition of The Safety Brief for the NFPA’s National Fire Prevention Week.


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Dan Clark: Can you put out a fire in five seconds? If not, that fire is too big to be put out with an extinguisher. It’s time to get out of there.

Hello, I’m Dan Clark of The Safety Brief with a special edition for National Fire Prevention Week. This is where we talk about health and safety hazards in today’s demanding industrial and construction worksites.

You’ve heard people say “You shouldn’t throw water on a grease fire.” And not all fire extinguishers can tackle all fires. National Fire Prevention Week is October 5-11. It’s a good time to recharge your memory about fire extinguishers.

Different fire extinguishers have different fire-snuffing agents inside. The three most common fire extinguisher ingredients are water, CO2, and dry chemicals.

The stuff inside that fire extinguisher must be appropriate for the type of fire. For example, if you use water to put out an electrical fire, you could get electrocuted.

A fire extinguisher will be marked with a letter that corresponds to the type of fire it puts out.

A – Designates a fire fueled by wood, paper, plastic or other combustibles.

B – Flammable liquids, such as gasoline.

C – Energized electrical equipment.

D – Combustible metals.

K – Vegetable or animal oils, usually in large kitchens that have deep fryers.

Some extinguishers may be multipurpose and are labeled with ABC, or BC, for example.

When do you use a fire extinguisher? If . . .

  • Someone has already contacted the fire department.
  • The fire is contained in a small area.
  • There are at least two viable exits nearby.
  • There are no dangerous materials in the area.
  • You have the right type of fire extinguisher available. I’m talking about the letter designations we just talked about—A, B, C, D, and K.

When it’s time to use a fire extinguisher, use the PASS method—P.A.S.S.

P – Pull. Pull the safety pin.
A – Aim. Aim at the base of the flames, where the fuel is.
S – Squeeze. Squeeze the handle.
S – Sweep. Sweep back and forth until the fire is out.

It should not take longer than five seconds. If it does, the fire may be too big to put out. Everyone should evacuate.

In the workplace, you should be able to find a fire extinguisher by simply following posted signs and labels. Depending on the type of extinguisher, one should be mounted within 30 to 75 feet away at the most, according to OSHA standards.

That’s a wrap for this episode on Fire Extinguisher Operation. Come back for more tips and techniques on how to stay safety compliant in today’s ever-changing landscape of safety requirements. I’m Dan Clark of The Safety Brief, sponsored by Creative Safety Supply. See the website at


Fire extinguisher flame image Barry Bahler/FEMA
Fire extinguishers image © 2014 MORGUEFILE. All Rights Reserved. /  © 2014 Sheron2482

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