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Safety and Health in the Workplace – Teaching The Fire Triangle

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Safety and health in the workplace is a combination of keeping the work environment free from recognized hazards and training employees about possible hazards. One hazard that is always around people at work and at home is the possibility of a fire occurring. Fire safety training is an excellent safety topic for your next safety and health in the workplace training day.

What is fire, why do fires start, and why do fires burn?

The simplest way to teach the basics of fire safety is to teach what fire is, how it starts and what it needs to burn. When people understand the how, they tend to understand the why more easily. The fire triangle demonstrates the three elements that are needed in order for the chemical reaction – fire – to occur. The chemical reaction fire is located in the center of the triangle. The three outside edges of the triangle represent one of the three elements needed for fire to exist. All three elements must be present at the same time to produce fire. When exposed to an ignition source such as a static spark, if all three elements are present, fire will happen. Take away any one element and the chemical reaction of fire cannot occur. The three outside edges are 1 Oxygen 2 Fuel and 3 Heat.

  • Oxygen The fist side of the triangle is oxygen. Enough oxygen must be present to sustain combustion. A great example to demonstrate this is a candle in a glass jar. With he lid off, the candle burns freely. But when the lid is placed snugly back on the jar, the flame flickers and goes out as it uses the last bit of oxygen inside the jar.

This demonstrates that it is next to impossible to eliminate oxygen as a way to prevent a fire from occurring since oxygen is around us in our air.

  • Fuel Sources or Combustible Material – This is the second side of the fire triangle. Fuel sources can be cloth, wood, plastics, oil, gasoline or anything that will “feed” a fire. We live in houses made of wood, that are full of cloth and paper.

It is impossible to eliminate fire fuel sources in our lives, therefore it is next to impossible to eliminate fuel as a way to prevent a fire from occurring since “fuel for fire” is around us in our living environment.

  • Heat – Enough Heat to Reach an Ignition Temperature  Heat is the third side of the fire triangle. 70 degrees Fahrenheit is heat, 50 degrees is heat. When we talk about the amount of heat that is required to reach an ignition temperature, know that different fuel sources require different temperatures before they will ignite. For example, gasoline is a very flammable liquid. Gasoline vapors will ignite at temperatures as low as minus 45 degrees. On the other hand, motor oil known as a combustible liquid, needs to be much much warmer (over 420 degrees) before its vapors will ignite.

Keeping ignition sources like static sparks and open flames away from ignition temperatures (heat) seems to be the easiest side of the triangle to take away. We can’t take away a 70 degree day, but we can eliminate things like static sparks and allowing open flames in area where flammable material are stored. Fire safety, at its most simplest and uncomplicated explanation is based upon the fire triangle and keeping the fuel sources and the ignition sources separate. Safety and health in the workplace depends on education and training. An introduction to fire, by explaining these basic concepts is an excellent way to begin your fire safety training.

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