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Fire Extinguishers for Protection of Life and Property by Prevention of Industrial Fires

by Harshad J

posted in Reference and Education

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From an Indian perspective, Fire Hazards are a major concern for industries and are more prominent than toxic hazards and explosions. A fire, if not controlled in a timely manner or if vapor material is not allowed escaping, on ignition, vapor clouds of a flammable liquid may eventually lead to an explosion. Fire hazards can cause severe damage to life and property and in India, around 25,000 people die every year as a result of fire related accidents or explosions.
Electrical systems that are defective or outdated, and even improper wiring are the leading cause of industrial fire hazards and over 70% of such accidents in India invariably result from the same. This makes just about every shop or industrial building susceptible to a fire hazard. Some other common causes include hazardous material that is not disposed properly while chemical experiments in laboratories also attribute to a significant number of fire related accidents.
Nevertheless, a vast majority of cases are caused due to hanging wires or circuitry which is not maintained properly. Tripping of an electrical circuit often causes a spark and this could initiate a fire if the place is unkempt and improper. If there are stacks of paper or inflammable materials in the vicinity, the situation could further degrade. A large number of such accidents can be prevented by proper maintenance of electrical meters and distribution boards. Circuit breakers and distribution boards of buildings should always be maintained in a good order.
Significance of a portable fire extinguisher for dousing industrial fires:
Use of a simple, portable fire extinguisher can go a long way in preventing industrial fire hazards or other fire related accidents at a workplace. Most large fires initiate as smaller ones and if unchecked, a small fire could turn out to be more dangerous. A basic precaution like keeping a fire extinguisher handy and ready for use can be greatly helpful in reducing the damage caused by a fire and checking the fire while it has just begun and is small.
As a simple measure of fire protection, a portable fire extinguisher can check the outbreak of a fire and this makes it an absolute must for all places vulnerable to fire accidents. In case a fire does break out, one should be able to conveniently find the fire extinguisher mounted at its stand and correspondingly use it to put out the fire. Though inexpensive, a portable fire extinguisher can go a long way in protection of life and property and for an industrial environment, it becomes all the more important considering the higher susceptibility of such places to fire hazards.
Major causes of industrial fires:
Electrical Equipment:
Use of electrical equipment can increase the chances of a fire hazard due to short circuiting or malfunctioning of equipment. Correspondingly, electrical or electronic stores, showrooms, repair shops etc must keep a portable fire extinguisher handy to mitigate the risk.
Inflammable Liquids:
The most prevalent causes of industrial fires include flammable liquids like fuel, oils and paint which are normally found in laboratories and shops. Such products may be used for auto repairing, painting or heater applications and a fire can become more intense if a flammable liquid like oil is spread on the floor.
Processes that make use of an open flame:
Use of an open flame for processes like cooking, smoking, welding or brazing makes an industry or a workplace more vulnerable to fire hazards. Messes, cooking facilities, hotels and restaurants, manufacturing industries and laboratories are therefore more susceptible to a potential fire hazard.
Heating Equipment:
Similarly if your workplace involves use of heating equipment like heating plates, cooking material, drying machinery used in laundries or laboratories, chances of occurrence of a fire hazard increase.
Use of Chemicals:
Places that handle or dispose of hazardous industrial waste are vulnerable while laboratory experiments also enhance the risk of fire hazards. Alternately, all industries, studios or shops that deal with oily rags run a greater risk of the possibility of a fire hazard. A portable fire extinguisher not just helps douse fires but significantly minimizes the extent of damage in case a fire does break out.
Importance of fire prevention and protection:
A very important issue associated with industrial fires is how quickly a fire spreads. Fires that start at an industrial location are more vulnerable to spreading owing to the higher possibility of inflammable materials in the vicinity of a smaller fire. Primary purposes of industrial fire protection include not just prevention of fires but also making sure that a small fire does not turn out to be a big one. As an example, if a small fire starts in a trash can, it should be doused before it increases in magnitude. Prevention of fires implies steps followed to make sure that a fire does not start at all.
Proper housekeeping, employee training, work ethics and workplace inspection are now believed to be essential for workplace safety and to maintain a hazard free environment. Requisite maintenance, regular inspection and testing of electrical systems and equipment are sure to prevent a vast majority of fires from starting.
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