Saturday, June 21, 2008

Safety - Fire

Each year we have several cases of fires in the horticultural industry. The following are some considerations in avoiding fires.

Flammable liquids and gases – Gasoline, diesel fuel, degreasing fluids, and paint solvents are flammable materials that are used on by horticultural firms. The vapors from these materials can be extremely explosive in the presence of flames, sparks and hot surfaces. Dangerous practices include fueling a running or hot engine, smoking when handling gasoline and using gasoline as a solvent or cleaning agent. Remember to store flammable products in their original containers in a cool place and out of the sun. Keep cleaning rags in a metal container to reduce the risk of a fire.

Motorized Machinery and Equipment – Fires involving machinery can be costly. Common causes of such fires include defects in the ignition system, leaking fuel lines, improper refueling, smoking, overheated engine, sparks from the exhaust and friction. Common sense preventive measures can reduce these mishaps significantly. When refueling, turn off the engine and extinguish smoking materials. Watch for and repair leaks in fuel lines, carburetors, pumps, etc. promptly. Always work in a well-ventilated area when using solvents and other flammable materials. Be extremely cautious when welding and cutting that sparks are contained and combustible materials are protected from the heat. Take a few minutes to clean dust and plant residue away from the engine and exhaust system of equipment when a build-up occurs.

Lack of fire extinguishers and training - In many cases, fire extinguishers are not carried by horticultural firms. Lack of fire extinquishers or improperly sized fire extinguishers in trucks and on equipment is a problem that is often compounded by users who do not understand the proper use of the extinguisher. Keep fire extinquishers in trucks, on tractors, and on larger motorized equipment (larger mowers). Check with the fire service or equipment manufacturer in regards to the proper size extinguisher, train operators on proper use, and regularly check extinguishers to keep them current and charged.

Information adapted from an article by Ron Jester; Extension Safety Specialist (retired), UD.

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