Fire Safety in the Laboratory

What makes laboratory fire safety unique?

  • Variety of materials
    • Flammable metals
    • Highly flammable chemicals
    • Compressed flammable gases
    • Hydrocarbons
  • Specialized equipment
    • Various electricity supply systems
    • High-temperature equipment
    • Chemical equipment
    • Frequent turnover of users

Fire Prevention:

  • Plan work: The majority of lab fires have resulted from mental or procedural errors or carelessness.
  • Minimize materials: Have present in the immediate work area and use only the minimum quantities necessary to work in progress. Not only does this minimize fire risk, it reduces costs and waste.
  • Observe proper housekeeping: Keep work areas uncluttered, and clean frequently. Put unneeded materials back in storage promptly. Properly insulate electrical connections. Keep aisles, doors, and access to emergency equipment unobstructed at all times.
  • Observe proper safety practices.
  • Store solvents properly.
  • Observe restrictions on equipment (i.e. keeping solvents only in an explosion-proof refrigerator).
  • Keep barriers in place (shields, hood doors, lab doors).
  • Wear proper clothing and personal protective equipment.
  • Avoid working alone.
  • Plan: Have a written emergency plan for your space and/or operation.
  • Training: Exercise the emergency plan and learn to use the emergency equipment provided.

Laboratory Fire Safety Equipment

  • In all labs:
    • Fire alarms
    • Fire extinguishers
    • First aid kits
    • Evacuation route map
    • MSDS folder
  • Relevant to fire safety, but specific to some labs:
    • Safety shower
    • Eye wash station
    • Fire blankets
    • Flame retardant lab coats
    • Emergency shutoffs

Fire Extinguisher Types:

  • A: solids such as paper, wood, plastic, etc
  • B: liquids such as paraffin, petroleum, oil, etc and gases such as propane, butane, methane, etc
  • C: electrical fires and electrified equipment
  • D: metals such as lithium, magnesium, etc
  • ABC fire extinguishers most common to find
  • D-type fire extinguishers typically specialized by metal
  • All fire extinguishers can be acquired through EHS fire safety –
    • they are free – there is no charge for this service – get all the fire extinguishers needed in your lab to cover all the different types of materials in your lab.
    • Note: EHS will verify the pressure on the fire extinguishers in your labs every year (or so). If you have special access on your lab door, you’ll need to coordinate with them, to give them access to your lab, to check your fire extinguishers.

Fire Emergency Procedures:

  • Notify:
    • Other occupants of the immediate space (yell)
    • Other occupants of the facility (use the fire alarm)
    • Emergency responders (the alarm will do that for you, but a 911 phone call makes certain)
  • Evacuate:
    • The immediate area of the problem.
    • The space within which the problem has occurred.
    • The building within which the space is located.
  • Isolate:
    • Lower hood sash, close lab door(s), close corridor doors.

Fire Extinguisher Use:

  • Use PASS:
    • Pull – pull the pin off the handle
    • Aim – aim at the base of a fire, not the flames
    • Squeeze – squeeze the handle to engage spray
    • Sweep – sweep the nozzle left and right
  • Only use the fire extinguisher if you feel comfortable
  • LEAVE if situation becomes unsafe
  • EHS fire extinguisher training:
      • One hour course held approximately monthly
      • Free to sign up for any student or staff member

References: