A Simple Mistake in Fire Safety
Introduction: We receive injury reports each year about individuals at work and home that are severely burned or killed by fire. Many injuries are from a moment of inattention, or carelessness, or ignorance of the material or liquids being used. Mistakes are often made trying to “HELP” a fire to start or burn hotter. While fire can be useful, fire can also mutilate us, kill us, and destroy everything that took a lifetime to build. Fire will take away your work place, your job, and possibly your life.
Background: Scenario 1 – Recently, a night watchman for a logging company was badly injured when he attempted to start a fire in a shop stove. These stoves are used everywhere and maybe you have one in your shop or home work shop. He placed some wood pieces in the stove and shove bags of trash that truck drivers had left in the area. Inside the trash bags were plastic soda bottles with the caps on. He also started to pour waste oil into a small cap to throw in the fire to help it along. When the embers from the previous day’s fire ignited the trash, it caused the closed bottle to burst and threw hot embers out of the stove and onto the watchman. The embers also fell into the waste oil container (later discovered to have waste by products that contained flammable materials) and when it flashed, it threw oil and caused burns to his body.
Scenario 2 – A logging crew arrived to the job site while it was dark and the temperature was cold enough that they needed to build a fire while they awaited the daylight. The wood was in the burn barrel and the fire was lite. One of the crew members got some diesel and threw it onto the fire. Unfortunately, it flashed back at him and burned him. It was later discovered that the gas station where they filled the diesel can that morning had had gasoline pumped into the holding tank by the vendor. The crew member sustained severe burns to the hand and face.
UNSAFE ACTS & CONDITION:
- Employee tried to help the fire along without knowing the hazards involved.
- Employee was unaware of the glowing embers from the previous fire.
- Employee did not know the contents of the trash in the bags.
- Employee did not know there was flammable liquid mixed in with the waste oil.
- Employee had the 5-gallon bucket of waste oil too close to the fire.
- Employee did not know there was gasoline mixed in with the diesel.
- Employee tried to help the fire by throwing a combustible liquid onto a burning fire.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR CORRECTION:
1. Always know the condition of the embers and materials you plan to burn.
2. Do not try to help a fire that has glowing embers in it.
3. Be aware that pressurized containers like soda or water bottles will burst when the heat expands the gases trapped inside them.
4. Do not attempt to use fluids to help the fire burn if you do not know what they contain.
5. It is better to be safe than burned – do not try to accelerate a fire with flammable or combustible liquids.
Fire is an essential part of our live. We cannot do without it, but we must stop needless injuries that can change you for the rest of your life. Never have an attitude that you will not be injured. Be prepared by knowing what actions to take if one occurs. Good teamwork is a must. To prevent fires we must all work together.