Fire Safety

Fire safety is an important component of the laboratory safety program. Each laboratory is required to post fire evacuation plans that are essentially blueprints for finding the nearest exit in case of fire (Figure 4-4). Fire drills conducted quarterly or annually depending on local laws ensure that all personnel know what to do in case of fire. Exit ways should always remain dear of obstructions, and employees should be trained to use fire extinguishers. The local fire department is often an excellent resource for training in the types and use of fire extinguishers.

Type A fire extinguishers are used for trash, wood, and paper; type B are used for chemical fires; type C are used for electrical fires. Combination type ABC extinguishers are found in most laboratories, so personnel need not worry about which extinguisher to reach for in case of a fire. However, type C extinguishers, which contain carbon dioxide (C02) or another dry chemical to smother fire, are also used because this type of extinguisher will not damage equipment.

Figure 4-3 Fume hood. A, Model ChemGARD. B, Schematics. Arrows indicate air flow through cabinet to outside vent. (Courtesy The Baker Co., Sanford, Me.)

The important actions in case of fire and the order in which to perform tasks are remembered as the standard acronym RACE:

  1. Rescue any injured individuals.
  2. Activate the fire alarm.
  3. Contain (smother) the fire, if feasible (close fire doors).
  4. Extinguish the fire, if possible. ELECTRICAL SAFETY

Electrical cords should be checked regularly for fraying and replaced when necessary. All plugs should be the three-prong, grounded type. All sockets should be checked for electrical grounding and leakage at least annually. No extension cords should be used in the laboratory.

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