Don’t rely solely on fire ser­vices fol­low­ing changes to work­place health & safety

DEMM Engineering & Manufacturing - - NEWS -

Re­search from the Univer­sity of Can­ter­bury in­di­cates that us­ing a fire ex­tin­guisher in the event of a mi­nor fire can po­ten­tially re­duce the need for a visit from the fire ser­vice, and the busi­ness from ex­pen­sive re­cov­ery costs. Yet many New Zealand busi­nesses are putting their staff and property at risk by choos­ing to re­move fire ex­tin­guish­ers and hand op­er­at­ing fire­fight­ing equip­ment (HOFFE) from their premises.

While the de­ci­sion to re­move fire ex­tin­guish­ers from a busi­ness’s premises may not be un­law­ful, it can put lives and oper­a­tions at un­nec­es­sary risk. The rea­son some busi­nesses choose to re­move the equip­ment stems from an in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the law and a mo­ti­va­tion to cut costs.

“Re­cent changes to the work­place health and safety leg­is­la­tion have just passed through par­lia­ment,” says Dave Hipkins, Na­tional Tech­ni­cal Ser­vices Man­ager at Wormald. “Th­ese changes now place a due dili­gence duty on any per­son con­duct­ing a busi­ness or un­der­tak­ing, in­clud­ing com­pany direc­tors or part­ners, who are now per­son­ally re­spon­si­ble for the health and safety of staff and con­trac­tors. When it comes to pro­tect­ing peo­ple and property from fire, busi­nesses can no longer af­ford to cut cor­ners.”

It is also false for any­one to as­sume that sprin­kler sys­tems are de­signed to ex­tin­guish a fire – they are de­signed to limit the spread of fire. This means that if a fire oc­curs in a shielded area, such as un­der a desk shelf, the sprin­kler sys­tem may not drench the area with­out the as­sis­tance of a fire ex­tin­guisher, hose reel or other ap­pro­pri­ate fire­fight­ing equip­ment.

With the leg­is­la­tion changes now in place, busi­nesses are ex­pected to be more proac­tive and en­gaged in iden­ti­fy­ing work­place haz­ards and man­ag­ing risk, making a com­pre­hen­sive fire pro­tec­tion strat­egy vi­tal. Hav­ing ad­e­quate and cor­rect hand op­er­ated fire­fight­ing equip­ment in­stalled pro­vides an im­por­tant first line of de­fence for staff which can help to re­duce the im­pact of fire, help min­imise busi­ness re­cov­ery costs, and ul­ti­mately save lives.

To bet­ter understand the ef­fec­tive­ness of HOFFE, the New Zealand Fire Ser­vice Com­mis­sion has un­der­taken a re­search project, as part of the an­nual con­testable re­search round. Part of the project is a sur­vey whose aim is to bet­ter understand the use and ben­e­fits of HOFFE. The Fire Ser­vice is work­ing with the fire pro­tec­tion in­dus­try to en­cour­age busi­nesses that have re­cently ex­pe­ri­enced a fire, to par­tic­i­pate in the sur­vey. An­swer­ing some ques­tions about how a fire in­ci­dent was man­aged will help to build a pic­ture of the ben­e­fits of HOFFE. For de­tails about the HOFFE project or to par­tic­i­pate in the study, visit the sur­vey web­page.

Com­bustible gases (for ex­am­ple, LPG, CNG and propane). Iso­la­tion of the fire is the only safe way to ex­tin­guish a Class C fire.

Com­bustible met­als (for ex­am­ple, mag­ne­sium, alu­minium and sodium). Th­ese fires are more com­mon that many re­alise and re­quire spe­cial­ist ad­vice.

Elec­tri­cally en­er­gised equip­ment. Elec­tri­cal fires re­quire their own class and the equip­ment must com­ply with the AS/NZS 1850 test for elec­tri­cal non-con­duc­tiv­ity. Wa­ter must not be used on elec­tri­cal fires.

Cook­ing fats and oils (such as those used for shal­low and deep fat fry­ers). Fire blan­kets are most ef­fec­tive and rec­om­mended in con­junc­tion with ex­tin­guish­ers for Class F fires.

Ev­ery fire ex­tin­guisher is clas­si­fied by the class of fire it can be used on and the ex­tin­guisher will clearly dis­play its class on the out­side of the ex­tin­guisher. All de­tails per­tain­ing to the clas­si­fi­ca­tion of fire ex­tin­guish­ers are set out in AS/NZS1850.

ABE pow­der fire ex­tin­guish­ers are the most widely used type and are suit­able for house, boat, garage, car or car­a­van en­vi­ron­ments. They can be used for Class A, B, C and E type fires. BE pow­der fire ex­tin­guish­ers are most suit­able for Class B and E fires. Fire ex­tin­guish­ers should be in­stalled as de­tailed in NZ Stan­dard NZS 4503 and typ­i­cally in­volves a unit be­ing lo­cated close to the main exit from the build­ing. If the fire can’t be con­trolled, it is im­por­tant to have easy ac­cess to the exit to get out safely. To op­er­ate a fire ex­tin­guisher, the sim­ple acro­nym PASS makes it easy to re­mem­ber: • Pull the pin. Hold the ex­tin­guisher with the noz­zle point­ing away

from you and release the lock­ing mech­a­nism. • Aim low. Point the ex­tin­guisher at the base of the fire . • Squeeze the lever slowly and evenly. • Sweep the noz­zle from side to side.

When us­ing a fire ex­tin­guisher, keep your back to a clear exit for an eas­ier and quicker es­cape if the fire can­not be con­trolled. If the room fills with smoke, leave im­me­di­ately.

Test­ing and main­te­nance should also be car­ried out in ac­cor­dance with AS/NZS1841. En­sure that the ex­tin­guisher is kept in its des­ig­nated place at all times and is ready to use in the event of a fire. Re­fer to NZS4503:2005 to re­view the code of prac­tice for the dis­tri­bu­tion, in­stal­la­tion and main­te­nance of hand op­er­ated fire­fight­ing equip­ment for use in build­ings.

It is also rec­om­mended that des­ig­nated per­son­nel are trained in how to use fire ex­tin­guish­ers. This may be re­quired un­der the busi­nesses Health and Safety in Em­ploy­ment Act. In ad­di­tion to hav­ing the cor­rect fire­fight­ing equip­ment on site, ev­ery busi­ness should have a fire es­cape plan that is prac­ticed reg­u­larly with staff. This will en­sure that ev­ery­one un­der­stands what to do in the event of a fire emer­gency.

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