Safety Minute: Everything You Need to Know About Fire Extinguishers

According to OSHA, a fire is the most common emergency that small business plan for. A fire extinguisher can be an invaluable tool to help fight small fires in the workplace or they can be used to protect evacuation routes in the event of a larger one.

OSHA requires employers to thoroughly train workers in not only how to use an extinguisher properly, but also how to accurately assess a situation and determine when evacuation is the safest course of action. OSHA requires employees to be trained in fire extinguisher use on an annual basis, at a minimum.

What are Fire Extinguishers? Fire extinguishers are defined as an appliance device that is designed to be, or is capable of being, readily moved and that contains or produces any liquid, powder or gas usable for the purpose of extinguishing a fire. What many people do not know is there are different types of fire extinguishers.

Types of Fire Extinguishers: There are many different types of fire extinguishers available on the market that use different extinguishing medias such as water, CO2, dry chemical, and wet chemical. It’s important to know that the type of extinguishing media you should use depends on the type of fire. The following chart breaks down fire types by fuel source:

Extinguishers will be labelled with the classes for their intended use. The most common fire extinguishers you will encounter in the workplace are Class ABC. Class ABC means the extinguishers will be effective in putting out fires where the fuel source is made up of ordinary combustibles, flammable liquids or live electrical equipment. The most widely used extinguishing media in a Class ABC extinguisher is dry chemical. Other common extinguisher classes are Class K and Class D. Class K extinguishers utilize wet chemical and will usually be found in kitchen operations where oils and grease are common.  Lastly, Class D extinguishers utilizing dry powder and are usually found where combustible metals are use or stored.

A simple fire extinguisher training technique to use with employees for Class ABC and K extinguishers is the PASS method:

  1. Pull the pin: stand 8 feet or 10 feet from the flame.
  2. Aim at the base of the fire.
  3. Squeeze the handle.
  4. Sweep back and forth at the base of the fire shooting out the extinguishing agent.

Other valuable tips include:

  • Don’t aim high at the flames. You will not be able to put out the fire that way.
  • Remember that most extinguishers have a very limited operation time, approximately 8 to 10 seconds, so you must act quickly and spray properly at the base of the fire, not at the smoke or the flames.

How to use a Class D Fire Extinguisher

  1. Pull the pin
  2. Always hold the extinguisher vertically
  3. Hold nozzle over fire. The reach of the extension applicator hose and the squeeze grip valve allows placement of the dry powder exactly where it will be most effective.
  4. Squeeze the discharge lever. Squeeze slowly and evenly. This action will release the dry chemical. Apply the dry powder completely cover the burning metal with a thin layer of powder.
  5. Once control is established, take a position that is in close range. Cover the metal completely with a heavy layer of powder. Be careful not to break the crust formed by the powder. Slowly open the nozzle of the extinguisher.

Capaccio Environmental Engineering can help by:

  • Providing recommendations regarding the type of portable fire extinguishers you should have available onsite relative to your processes
  • Conducting monthly fire extinguisher inspections
  • Creating fire extinguisher training
  • Assisting with Fire Prevention Plans

At CAPACCIO, we live our mission of “Helping Industry and the Environment Prosper”. We align EHS with your overall business objectives to strategically position you for success. Our unique approach combines our extensive EHS experience with innovative tools, such as our EHS Dashboard™, to effectively address your challenges. Our comprehensive solutions have resulted in award-winning EHS and overall business performance for our clients. We are certified WBENC, WBE. To learn more visit us at