Fire extinguishers are vital safety equipment in any printing plant. As with any emergency equipment, all people in the facility should know the locations of extinguishers and how they should be used. Fire extinguishers need to be checked each year to ensure that they are charged and working properly. In addition, any employee who is expected to use a fire extinguisher must receive annual training and that training needs to be documented.
There are several different types of fire extinguishers available and each has a designated use in terms of the type of fire they are designed to extinguish. Extinguishers are labeled to indicate the type of fire they will be effective to control and the types are:
- Class A - ordinary combustibles
- Class B - flammable liquids
- Class C - electrical fires
- Class D - metals fires
Fire Extinguisher Codes
If a fire must be fought with an extinguisher, the PASS method should be used with the extinguisher in the upright position:
- Pull the pin
- Aim at the base of the fire
- Squeeze the handle
- Sweep the base of the fire
FIGURE 115 FPP Vol. 5
Many printing plants running solvent based inks have installed carbon dioxide (CO2) fire systems onto each press and in some cases the entire pressroom. Entire pressrooms can be protected with a gas fire safety system that can put out a fire in two to four seconds by depleting the room of oxygen. This system requires that all doors and windows be closed to contain the gas. To further aid containment, all outgoing exhausts are stopped on the press when the system is activated. CO2 leaves no residue to contaminate ink or damage press equipment.
Lastly, the facility may be required to have a sprinkler system installed. The specific requirements are driven by state and local building codes, as well as the requirements of the facilities insurance company.
Best Management Practices & Pollution Prevention
NFPA Guidelines for Sprinkler Systems
The NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) issues guidelines for the installation of sprinkler systems.
NFPA 13, the standard for the installation of sprinkler systems, states that for potable water systems, only pure glycerine (C.P. or U.S.P. 96.5 percent grade) or propylene glycol can be added to prevent freezing.
A mixture of 50% glycerine and 50% water protects against freezing for temperatures down to -20.9F, while 50% water/50% propylene glycol protects down to -26F. Antifreeze systems are limited to sprinkler systems with a volume capacity of 40 gallons or less; so, the actual discharge of the non-toxic antifreeze agent would be 20 gallons or less for a 50/50 solution.
The only alternative to a glycol-based wet sprinkler system is a dry pipe pre-action sprinkler system. Gaseous systems are not effective at temperatures below about 40F, and are generally designed for 60F - 70F applications in high-value areas, i.e., data centers, telephone switch rooms, etc. These systems are frequently used were electronic equipment is kept.
Maintenance on antifreeze systems can be costly over time, and because of stagnation, cannot be guaranteed to have the mixture in the far end of the pipes suitable to prevent freezing.
There are alternatives to and with antifreeze-based systems:
- Dry Pendant Heads: Remove the existing antifreeze system and install dry pendant heads. If a loading dock is 7 feet wide or less, the area can be protected with dry pendant heads extending through the heated side of the outside wall at a 45 angle. These heads are directly connected to wet pipe sprinklers in the heated building. They are designed to extend into freezing spaces (i.e., a freezer). The angled orientation will allow them to throw out to the end of the canopy. See NFPA 13, A.8.14.7
- Dry Pipe Protection: Install a dry pipe valve in place of the antifreeze fill system. Annual maintenance is about the same, but the environmental impacts are less and the guarantee against freezing is much better. The piping may need to be slightly revised to ensure proper drainage (dry pipe systems cannot have trapped piping sections - they must slope by one inch per 10 feet for proper drainage).
- Heat Trace & Insulate: If the antifreeze system is not too large, it can be heat traced and insulated. The temperature must be maintained above 40F but less than 120F. This is only acceptable for small unheated areas such as a small canopy and is the least desirable of the above alternatives.
For access to vendors who may supply alternative materials and equipment, see the PNEAC Vendor Directory.
Health & Safety
Employers must distribute portable fire extinguishers as follows:
- For use on Class A fires: so that the travel distance for employees to any extinguisher is 75 feet (22.9 m) or less
- For use on Class B fires: so that the travel distance from the Class B hazard area to any extinguisher is 50 feet (15.2 m) or less
- For Class C hazards: on the basis of the appropriate pattern for the existing Class A or Class B hazards
Portable fire extinguishers for Class D hazards are required in combustible metal working areas where combustible metal powders, flakes, shavings, or similarly sized products are generated at least once every two weeks. Portable fire extinguishers or other containers of Class D extinguishing agent so that the travel distance from the combustible metal working area to any extinguishing agent is 75 feet (22.9 m) or less.
Unless a specific standard in 29 CFR 1910 requires that a portable fire extinguisher be provided, employers with all of the following are exempt from these requirements:
- A written fire safety policy that requires the immediate and total evacuation of employees from the workplace upon the sounding of a fire alarm signal
- A written fire safety plan that includes an emergency action plan and a fire prevention plan that meet the requirements of 29 CFR 1910.38
- No extinguishers available in the workplace
According to 29 CFR 1910.157(d)(1)
, portable fire extinguishers must be provided for employee use and selected and distributed based on the classes of anticipated workplace fires and on the size and degree of hazard for which they would be used.
OSHA Standards – Portable Fire Extinguishers
29 CFR 1910.157(d)(1)