What Was Wrong in that Picture? 10/14/13
There are a few things wrong in this picture. The most noticeable issues are that these extinguishers are in the wrong place and are the wrong type – sending a wrong message. Let’s talk about them as part of our focus on Fire Safety and Fire Prevention Month.
Issue 1: What it was difficult to demonstrate with the picture is that these two fire extinguishers are hanging in a men’s locker room. Yes, that’s right. They are in an interior room. As you can see in the picture, the walls in this room are cement blocks. If you think of the materials in a traditional locker room (and this room was a standard locker room), there generally are few fire hazards. We do not know the reason for placing any fire extinguisher inside this room, nor could we guess at what that might be.
If you see smoke or a fire, and the fire is an incipient (smaller than you, i.e. “fight-able”) one, you want to have an exit at your back, and a clear path to get out. If you have to enter an interior room to find an extinguisher, you will not have a clear escape path, and the time you take to find an extinguisher might allow the fire to become too large for you to attempt to fight, and could cause you to become trapped with no way to escape.
Tip for Issue 1: The best placement for fire extinguishers is near exterior doors. If the building or site is large, requiring placement of extinguishers in other locations, the extinguishers should be placed somewhere on the exit route, not in interior rooms, which would take additional time to locate. OSHA requires that extinguishers be “readily accessible to employees without subjecting the employees to possible injury.” (29 CFR 1910.157)
Issue 2: These are really big extinguishers. Bigger is not always better. Paul Gantt, SCM President and a former Fire Marshall took this picture. He noticed that those units are 10-A:120-B:C rated. He said, “Fire extinguishers are designed for incipient fires primarily and having two large units could cause people to try to extinguish a fire that is way too large.” Again, this potentially could expose an employee to possible injury by encouraging employees to fight fires best left to professionals. It is much safer for employees to evacuate the area, and to make sure that emergency responders have been called, than to try to fight a fire that might quickly grow and threaten harm.
Tip for Issue 2: Only provide extinguishers that are the size needed for the hazards present. The regulation states extinguishers need to be adequate for anticipated fire hazards. We doubt there were fire hazards present in that locker room that needed two large extinguishers. Don’t send the wrong message having extinguishers that are too large.
Obviously, there’s more that we could point out here. We welcome you to post your thoughts on our Facebook page at Safety Compliance Management (SCM). We’ll be watching for you!