Lab Health and Safety

Provide Fire Extinguishers, Safety Showers, and Eye Wash Fountains

Fire extinguishers need to be appropriate to the type of fire.

James A. Kaufman

Type A fires form an ash. A water extinguisher is for fires involving burning wood or paper. Type B fires consist of coiling liquids like oil and grease. Carbon dioxide is an extinguisher for B type fires. Type C fires carry an electric charge. Halon extinguishers and dry chemical powders are to be used here. Active metal fires are type D. Sand and special powders can be used on these fires.

The extinguishers should be mounted at the correct height and designated with a sign above to indicate the location.

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Z-358.1-2004 standard provides design and performance recommendations for safety showers and eye wash fountains. It recommends weekly activation and annual testing.

Safety showers should provide water at a rate of 20 gallons per minute for at least 15 minutes. The valve should be a single-action level which stays on until it is pushed off.

Eye wash fountains should have a similar type actuating lever. The flow rate should be 1.5 gallons per minute for eye wash only and 4.0 gallons per minute for eye wash/ face wash combination devices.

The OSHA Lab Standard requires that employers indicate in the written chemical hygiene plan how these devices will be maintained and who is going to be responsible for checking and testing them. Monthly inspections are appropriate.

Source: Kaufman, James A., Laboratory Safety Guidelines - Expanded Edition, The Laboratory Safety Institute, www.labsafetyinstitute.org.