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by Dr. Isabel Perry, “The Safety Doctor”



(917 Words)


Every year millions of dollars of damage occur because of fires, but more importantly, people are hurt and LIVES ARE LOST.


Fire prevention is a critical part of an active Health and Safety plan.  Everyone needs to know what to do in case of a fire, and what he or she can do to prevent the conditions that can cause a fire.




Fires begin when three elements come together: oxygen, fuel, and heat.  We can’t do anything about oxygen, which is in the air.  However, we can make sure that fuels and heat don’t join oxygen. Fuels can be anything from paper, wood and candles to gasoline and other combustible materials.  Heat is caused by everything from open flames and sparks to friction and electricity.




Your management should have established procedures for reporting fires as part of the company Health and Safety Plan. The procedures in this plan should be reviewed regularly, because they are easy to forget in an emergency situation.


In the unfortunate situation that a fire does occur, what do you do?

¨      Report: No matter how small you think a fire is – report it.  It only takes seconds for a small fire to get out of control.  Also, what you can see may not be the whole fire.  Only trained professionals can tell for certain.

¨      Prepare for evacuation if it is necessary.  Even a small fire may require evacuation; you won’t know until you report the fire to someone.


Fire Extinguishers


There are several different types of fire extinguishers, each for a specific use. It is important to verify that you have the right fire extinguishers to do the job.  These are the types of fire extinguishers needed:

¨      Ordinary materials like paper, cloth, trash and wood need a CLASS A

¨      Gases, flammable materials like grease, oil, paint or solvents require a CLASS B

¨      Electrical equipment requires CLASS C. Never use water on an electrical fire

¨      Combustible metals like magnesium, sodium, potassium and sodium-potassium alloys, as well as lithium and lithium alloy - CLASS D

¨      Combination fires need CLASSES ABD and BC









To save people having to remember what class of fire extinguisher to use in an emergency, a simple sign should be posted over each fire extinguisher that says something like:















It is also advisable to post a diagram (large enough to be seen without glasses) on the wall next to the extinguisher or as part of the sign, that shows how to use the fire extinguisher. These instructions should be reviewed in regular health and safety classes.  In the excitement of an emergency, it may be difficult to remember what to do.


Fire extinguishers must be checked yearly to keep them current and legal.


Basic principals of using a fire extinguisher:

¨      Stand about 8 feet away from the fire and pull the pin.

¨      Aim at the base of the fire

¨      Try not to blow sparks away, causing the fire to get even larger than it is.

¨      For larger fires, get out and leave it to the professionals.

                  Material possessions can be replaced, people cannot!




There are a number of things that can be done to avoid the possibility of a fire occurring.  Take an inventory of your area, looking for potential fire hazards such as materials that are sitting or stacked together, or flammable materials like paper or cloth placed near an electrical outlet or a lamp.  Here are specific measures you can take:



¨      Smoke in designated areas only.

¨      Don’t leave cigarette butts lying around – dispose of them properly.  You may think your cigarette is out, but it might get blown into an area that’s potentially dangerous and spark a fire.

¨      Make sure that smoking materials and matches are put out thrown away in the proper receptacles.

¨      Space heaters should be authorized for use first, even in approved areas.  Extra care should be used to make sure they don’t touch anything while on and are turned off after use.



¨      Lubricate bearings, gears and moving joints so they don’t get hot.

¨      Make sure that moving parts don’t rub against each other

¨      Debris and grease should be kept clear


Electrical Equipment

The number one cause of industrial fires is the misuse or failure of electrical equipment.


¨      Check equipment regularly; checking at the start of each shift would not be excessive

¨      Replace frayed or worn cords and wires

¨      Don’t overload outlets, circuits, motors or fuses

¨      Have a good ground connection


Flammable Substances

¨      Store them in approved containers

¨      Clean up spills immediately

¨      Dispose of both flammables and clean up materials quickly and properly

¨      Know what is flammable – check labels

¨      Never store flammable materials around oxidizers

¨      When working with flammable material always use the proper tools and equipment


¨      Before cutting or heating a container, make sure it’s safe; make sure you know WHAT  WAS IN IT.

¨      Avoid creating static electricity by grounding a container before you transfer flammable materials


General Safety Tips

¨      Keep all work areas as free of dust, lint, wood, grease, oil, trash, etc. as possible

¨      Dispose of materials properly – whether flammable materials or trash

¨      Keep flammable material away from heat sources like machinery, electricity and lights.


Safety comes first.

Alertness to our environment is the greatest protection we have.


Dr. Isabel Perry is an internationally-known safety expert, motivational speaker, author, and safety educator.  Based in Orlando , Florida , she can be reached at 407-291-1209 or via e-mail at [email protected]