It doesn’t matter what industry you work in, or what scale you operate at, your business has an essential need for solutions that ensure the safety of its assets, products, materials and personnel. Even those businesses that operate within the least risky environments have to face the potential danger of fire. This might come from electrics, a negligent action or simply by accident.
Whatever the cause is for a potential fire, there is always a risk to all parts of a business if one breaks out. Because of this, businesses need to ensure that they have working fire extinguishers on hand in the event that a fire should break out. Aside from this, offices in South Africa are required by law to use SANS 10105 approved extinguishers to keep their premises protected.
This does also mean, and for the same reasons, that South African businesses need to ensure that their fire extinguishers are inconsistent working order. In order for this to happen, they need to enact timely fire extinguisher testing and maintenance on a regular basis.
So to help your business ensure that it keeps up with its most important need for safety, let’s explore why it needs fire extinguishers, what the advantages and drawbacks of doing so are, as well as details about how regularly they should be tested, and who you should get to do it for you.
The Importance of Fire Extinguishers in Your Business
As a starting point to this discussion, let’s begin by exploring why your business should have (if it doesn’t already) reliable fire extinguishers in its building.
As a chief safety solution for all types of setups, fire extinguishers serve a number of important functions.
These functions include maintaining the safety of staff and assets, ensuring peace of mind in your working environment, as well as ensuring that your business is compliant with the safety standards set out by SANS Fire Protection.
Let’s explore these in a little more detail here:
The Safety of Staff & Assets
The primary function of fire extinguishers is a fairly obvious one, and that is to ensure that your business’s most important assets are properly protected in the event that a fire should break out.
As an essential solution for containing and dousing fires should they occur, they make it possible for you to ensure that your personnel, assets and materials are kept safe from fire damage; for as long as reactionary action is taken in good time.
Wherever businesses operate with a risk of any kind present, it is essential that steps be taken to ensure that those risks are minimised. For some that may mean having an entire sprinkler system, for others, a fire extinguisher, or a set of them, will do the job
Peace of Mind
While you hopefully don’t spend the day in fear that a fire might randomly break out in your office, having no means on hand to combat a fire when it breaks out, should be a reason for concern.
If your offices don’t have any fire extinguishers in them, then perhaps you should be feeling a little bit worried.
Having fire extinguishers on hand allows you to focus your attention on other areas of your business instead of worrying about what might likely pose a danger to your staff and facility.
The Advantages of Fire Extinguishers for Your Business
It might sound strange to talk about the advantages brought about by owning a fire extinguisher and putting it in your workplace, but their advantages go far beyond simply saving lives.
They also enable you to do your part to protect the environment when a fire breaks out, allows you to minimise the damage caused by a fire, and they also offer fairly straightforward operation:
Preserve Life in Your Business
The chief advantage, and it can’t be said enough, is also their primary function.
Fire extinguishers add an excellent level of safety to your business by ensuring that you are ready to deal with any unexpected fires that might break out.
This means that you are minimising the risk to your employees, guests and customers; should a fire break out on your premises while they are present.
Protecting the Environment
Using a fire extinguisher to quell a fire offers an environmentally friendly solution to combatting rogue flames.
When fires are doused, they generally give off high concentrations of smoke and carbon monoxide, which can present an immediate suffocation hazard to anyone present but can also have further-reaching implications for the environment.
So, by using a fire extinguisher to control fire, you are also contributing to the betterment of the environment.
Minimising Actual Damage
Beyond the risk that fire presents to people, is the risk of damage sustained to your assets, materials and stock. These could be vehicles, buildings, or even sensitive records, to name a few.
Having fire extinguishers strategically placed, where they can be easily accessed in good time when a fire breaks out, will give you the tools you need to minimise the amount of damage sustained by these assets in the event that a fire should break out on your premises.
Ease of Use
Fire extinguishers are fairly simple to use, which is an important consideration when one thinks about the fact that they are typically used in emergency situations.
In such situations, complicated tasks may not be done effectively, especially if the operator is panicked. Since fire extinguishers are designed to minimise the impact of fires after they break out, they are also designed to be simple to use.
Having said that, however, they do require some prerequisite knowledge before they can be used effectively.
Because of this, those who are charged with safety in the workplace should undergo basic training on how to operate and take care of fire extinguishers.
The Disadvantages to Keeping Fire Extinguishers
Perhaps speaking about the advantages of fire extinguishers is not as odd as talking about their disadvantages.
Although they are an essential part of any working environment for a number of reasons, their use and storage does come with one or two disadvantages that you should be aware of if you are going to get the best possible use out of them.
These include the fact that they can make quite a mess when discharged, may result in asphyxiation when used in confined spaces, and that they require fairly constant attention if they are to be used effectively.
Let’s explore each of these drawbacks in a little more detail below:
Discharge can be Messy
CO2 fire extinguishers are made up of a mixture of liquid and gas carbon dioxide. When this is discharged from the device, it typically comes out as a thick, white powder that starves the fire of any oxygen, and therefore puts it out.
This mixture is also highly pressurised, so when it is discharged from the fire extinguisher, it comes out in fairly concentrated quantities; from there it expands when it comes into contact with air, and covers almost every surface in front of it.
As you could imagine, this presents a bit of a nightmare for anyone who is charged with cleaning up the aftermath, especially if the extinguisher has been used accidentally.
Extinguishers Must be Regularly Serviced
In order for them to provide operators with the safety and reliability required, fire extinguishers need to have their condition consistently checked upon.
This means that they need to undergo monthly, bi-annual and annual inspections and fire extinguisher servicing if they are going to be used reliably. On top of this, they also need to undergo a comprehensive inspection once every 6 years or so; and these inspections should be carried out by a professional technician.
Discharge May Cause Asphyxiation
Carrying on from the first identified drawback of the mess caused by a discharged fire extinguisher, they can also present their own danger when used in a confined space; that of asphyxiation.
A fire extinguisher works by replacing the oxygen in an environment, which is used to fuel the flames of a fire, with carbon dioxide.
This presents a bit of a concern for people in the area, as we are as reliant on the presence of oxygen as a fire is.
When used in a confined space to douse a fire, extinguishers can render an area void of oxygen, which makes it unfit for any people within it; who may suffocate in the presence of carbon dioxide in higher quantities than oxygen.
This means that wherever a fire extinguisher is to be used in a confined space, absolute care should be taken to not fill the room, while the room should also be evacuated first.
Inspecting Your Fire Extinguishers
With the importance of fire extinguishers for your business, their advantages and drawbacks all out of the way, let’s explore their maintenance and inspection needs in a little more detail.
In order to provide your business with the safety and reliability it needs, fire extinguisher inspections should be regularly conducted, and servicing should be done when needed.
Why You Should Inspect Your Fire Extinguishers
There are a number of excellent reasons to ensure that you stay on top of inspections and maintenance for your extinguishers in the workplace.
These include reliability when it comes to safety, staying in line with SANS compliance, ensuring that your assets are properly protected, and to be able to identify missing or damaged components ahead of time.
Let’s have a closer look at these points:
A fire extinguisher will only offer your business the right levels of safety if it is in the right condition. Since there is often no way of gauging their condition from simply looking at the extinguisher, regular inspections should be carried out by an industry professional who can tell you exactly how reliable your extinguisher is, and therefore how much safety it actually offers your workplace.
Be in Line with Compliance
Compliance is always a concern where business and safety come into contact; particularly where the risk of fire is concerned.
Your business isn’t simply expected to have fire extinguishers on hand, it also needs to ensure that regular inspections are conducted to ensure that they aren’t simply offering a false sense of security.
So, in order to keep your business on the right side of its statutory expectations, inspections should be a regular part of your operational routine.
Protect Your Assets
Your assets also need protection, and while fire extinguishers do a fantastic job of this, you need to be sure that they can be used reliably while those flames are creeping towards your central server, filing cabinet, vehicles or equipment.
Once the fire breaks out, it is far too late to get to testing and inspecting your extinguisher; you will need to have done it already.
Identify Missing Components
Fire extinguishers contain a lot of loose parts, many of which may go missing when nobody is looking. This might be due to tampering, theft or simply through damage.
But without regular inspections, there will be no way to know which components need replacing until the moment you need to use them. This might be the handle, safety pin, pressure gauge or even the discharge hose.
Regular inspections will ensure that everything you need is there when you need it!
Contact Mackantra Engineering Projects for Details
Here at Mackantra Engineering Projects, we take the safety of your business as a matter of personal pride. If you would like to know more about our offers on fire extinguisher inspection services, as well as our related offers, be sure to get into contact with one of our representatives today, or visit our website for additional details.