Danger – Fire Extinguisher

Fire extinguishers can be deadly, as this recent safety flash from the Marine Safety Forum shows. We’ve mentioned this before on Maritime Accident Casebook and I’d like to hear about other cases that you might be aware of through our confidential reporting contact at confidential@maritimeacident.org.

Always remember, a fireextinguisher is a pressurised vessel that corrosion or poor maintenance can turn into a bomb.

Safety Flash
A fatal injury occurred resulting from the operation of a gas cartridge-type dry chemical powder-filled fire extinguisher. Upon activating the fire extinguisher, the bottom of the extinguisher body failed. The fire extinguisher propelled upwards and struck the fire extinguisher operator in the neck and chin area resulting in fatal injuries.

Lessons Learned
There were signs of corrosion on the base of the extinguisher and it is thought that this may have contributed to the fire extinguisher failure. As a precautionary measure it is advised that all cartridge-type fire extinguishers (in simple terms those which do not have a pressure gauge attached) should be inspected immediately. Those which show signs of significant corrosion or severe pitting should be removed from service and replaced.
Recommended Actions Visually inspect all gas cartridge operated fire extinguishers that are located in potentially corrosive environments. Check for signs of significant corrosion or severe pitting on the body and base of the fire extinguisher. Where there is a sign of corrosion or severe pitting
on the extinguisher, take the extinguisher out of service immediately and replace it with a new unit.
During inspection, accessories such as rubber bases or mounting brackets should be removed to ensure a complete visual examination of the unit. If you are in doubt of the severity of the corrosion, take the extinguisher out of service and have it tested in line with
manufacturer’s guidelines.

Potentially corrosive environments include:
• fire extinguishers stored outside, unprotected from the weather
• fire extinguishers stored in wet/damp environments or in standing water
• fire extinguishers stored near marine environments, jetties, platforms, shipping or
any facility located near salt water
• fire extinguishers stored on or near chemical processing facilities
NB: An investigation team is currently working to determine the system causes of the incident and will report in due course. This may result in further recommendations.


2 Responses to Danger – Fire Extinguisher

  1. John says:

    Working as a chief mate and being the son of a New York City firefighter this is a subject I find important. We have a number of guest bloggers on our site who are firefighting experts but here is a post I did on the enormous amount of potential energy stored in these bottles.

    ….oh and it has some cool video:

  2. firetraceviking says:

    Can you imagine what a 20lb cylinder would do in that same situation. Great information.

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