Do you have the right fire extinguisher for your workplace?

Willard WebbPosted by Debra Willard Webb, RN, COHN-S 


It’s Fire Prevention Week, a great opportunity to educate your employees about best practices in the workplace and at home that can save their lives.  If prevention measures fall short and a fire breaks out, quick action is required.  Ensure people are safe and activate 911. Then, if your Emergency Action Plan calls for the use of portable fire extinguishers, knowing what fire extinguisher to use and how to use it properly is essential. 

The wrong extinguisher can endanger lives. Hazards like spreading combustible dust or chemicals, splashes of burning oil, electrical shocks, and even explosions can occur when the wrong extinguisher is used even with the best of intentions.

Using the right extinguisher for the burning material is critical.  That means being familiar with the symbols on portable extinguishers before the need arises. Training should include LOOKING at the symbols on portable fire extinguishers before using one to be sure the match is right.

Portable extinguishers are identified by the Fire Class they address. The Class is determined by the material inside the extinguisher. The material may be liquid or powder and is under pressure (thus the risk of splashing/spreading the flames). The Class is represented by a pictogram of the burning material intended to extinguish.


Here is a primer of common portable extinguishers:

Class A - Ash (Air-Pressurized Water) extinguishers   

  • Right for ordinary combustible materials such as paper, wood, cardboard, and most plastics.   The number on the rating label indicates the amount of water it holds and the amount of fire it can extinguish.
  • Never use water on grease/oil fires – splash and spread risk is high!

Class B - Barrel (Dry Chemical) extinguishers                         

  • Right for flammable or combustible liquids such as gasoline, kerosene, grease and oil. The number on the rating label indicates the approximate number of square feet of fire it can extinguish.

Class C - Current (Dry Chemical) extinguishers                      

  • Right for electrical equipment fires, such as appliances, wiring, circuit breakers and outlets.
  • Never use water on electrical fires - the risk of electrical shock is high!

Class K - Kitchen (Wet or Dry Chemicals for High Heat)  extinguishers

  • Right for cooking oils, trans-fats, or fats in cooking appliances and kitchens.
  • Never use water on grease/oil fires – splash and spread risk!

Class D - Dynamite (Specialized Dry Chemical) extinguishers                           

  • Right for specific chemical laboratory settings for fires that involve combustible metals, such as magnesium, titanium, potassium and sodium. For class D fires only.


The right extinguisher may put out a fire and save injury and property. But this can only happen when proper monthly inspections and yearly maintenance of extinguishers takes place and effective training is given to all affected employees.

Effective fire safety is easier with great resources; check out the following online tools: 


Oh the Pain! Avoiding Sprains and Strains

LarochellePosted by Greg LaRochelle, WCP

What do the world’s fastest man, Usain Bolt, and New England Patriots star tight end, Rob Gronkowski, have in common?  They both suffered a hamstring strain injury this year which caused a temporary setback from competing in their respective sport.  While strain and sprain injuries are fairly common among athletes in any sport, overexertion injuries rank first as the leading cause of disabling injury in the workplace.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, sprains, strains, or tears were the leading injury or illness in private industry and state and local government in 2014.  There were 420,870 of these cases requiring days away from work to recuperate and workers who suffered sprains, strains, or tears needed a median of 10 days away from work.

MEMIC is offering a free webinar on the topic of avoiding sprains and strains to policyholders on October 13th from 10:00 to 10:30am.  This half-hour webinar will describe the anatomical difference between a sprain and a strain, review the contributing factors leading to sprains and strains, discuss the general principles of safe lifting, and provide an overview of control measures for slip, trip, and fall prevention.  To register for this webinar or to request a schedule when new workshops and webinars are announced, click on this Workshops & Webinars link.

Check out some of our previous posts for tips on safe lifting, pushing vs. pulling, back pain and stretching.

How do we prevent workplace injuries?

KlattPosted by Randy Klatt, WCP

Preventing workplace injuries is easier said than done, but it is a manageable problem.  The key may be found in a quote from Walt Disney who once said, “The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” 

Almost everyone says they support safety, and every company owner says that safety is a priority.  Employees don’t want to get hurt, so why do we see so many workplace injuries?  So often organizations have the right policies in place, and they may conduct the proper training.  However, there is often no connection between safety administration and safe operations.  In essence they have done the “talking”, but they haven’t begun “doing”.  Following Walt’s advice could make a significant impact regarding injury prevention. 

For example, take a close look at your office ergonomics program.  If you do ergonomics training for all new hire employees, and recurrent training for all office staff you may think you’ve done all you can.  You may even offer dynamic workstations and the latest in ergonomically correct input devices.  But the questions to ask are these:  How are the employees actually interacting with their workstations on a daily basis?  Are they using those devices correctly?  Do they adjust the chair appropriately?  Do they stretch regularly?  An effective ergonomics program includes workstation evaluations, employee monitoring, and intervention when needed to correct bad habits or noncompliance.  If these last few pieces are not happening consistently then the “talking” is done, but the “doing” is missing.

Safety is sometimes an administrative activity; it could even be a collateral duty of the HR Manager.  If there is a Safety Manager, he or she may be responsible for training, OSHA compliance, and injury reporting.  But who’s responsible for safe behaviors?  Making the connection between administration and operations can make a huge impact on injury reduction.  But in order to do this the Safety Manager must have operational authority over the entire organization.  This safety person would then be able to correct any unsafe behaviors without delay.  Creating an immediate, and likely negative, consequence for unsafe behavior is often the only way to change behavior. 

Better yet, a safety committee with representatives from each department, all with operational authority, could better impact behavior within the entire organization.  Safety committees often have a meeting once a month (talking), but what happens between the meetings is the really important part (the doing).  Getting out onto the shop floor, into the offices, out to job sites, or into the company vehicles is the only way to see what is really happening.  Are employees following the rules?  Are they engaged in safe behaviors?  Are they taking shortcuts that have immediate positive impact on operations, but potentially a negative impact on safety?    

Ultimately the improvement in these areas can lead to a culture where every employee feels he or she is a safety team member.  If management properly supports safety then employees watch out for each other, they correct unsafe conditions or behaviors on their own, and they follow their training because it’s the right thing to do.  The safety program is working effectively and production no longer trumps safety.  So get out there and start doing!  You might be surprised at what you find.  For more information regarding effective safety programs check out the OSHA Safety and Health Management E-Tool.