The safety rule you forgot

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April 30, 2017
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May 29, 2017

The safety rule you forgot

Dean here! Many of you know that I love to cook, and that I spend a lot of time in the kitchen working on recipes and learning new techniques. One of my favorite resources for this is Cook’s Illustrated, a science- and research-based online magazine that shares both great recipes and thorough product reviews to help home chefs like me make the best decisions in the kitchen.

Recently, the magazine did a review on that most ubiquitous and essential of kitchen safety devices: the fire extinguisher. They tested eight widely available models, judging them on five different criteria:

  • The time it took to put out grease and towel fires
  • Ease of use
  • Overall performance
  • Cleanup (mess and fumes produced)
  • Time to understand operation

It’s that last one that caught my attention, raising an important question—how many of us have ever thought about how long it would take us to understand the safety equipment at our disposal in a real emergency?

Every workplace must have a fire extinguisher readily accessible, but do you know how to actually get it off the wall if you need it? What about the kind of fire it’s meant to douse? And do you know what steps you need to take, and in what order, to use the fire extinguisher effectively?

We can’t assume every fire extinguisher will work the same way as the ones we may have seen or used in the past. There are so many different models available these days (of fire extinguishers and everything else!), and some are not as straightforward to operate as others.


The forgotten safety rule

The safety rule far too many of us forget is that safety equipment must be easy. This means:

  • Easy to access. The equipment must be within reach, not blocked off or hidden, and located close to where it could be needed most.
  • Easy to understand. Someone should be able to look at the equipment and quickly grasp how to use it. The best way to ensure this is to use the same (or as similar as possible) models of equipment both in safety training and on the jobsite, to ensure familiarity.
  • Easy to use. The equipment should be as simple to operate as possible, while still able to do its job effectively. The more bells and whistles something has, the more intimidating—and potentially time-consuming—it will be to use in a crisis.

We urge all of our readers to consider your safety equipment carefully. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. When was the last time you inventoried it all to make sure you have what you need?
  2. When was the last time it was all inspected to ensure it was in working order?
  3. Is your entire team’s safety training up to date for the specific equipment they need access to?

The winner

In case you’re interested, the runaway winner of the Cook’s Illustrated fire extinguisher test was the Kidde ABC Multipurpose Home Fire Extinguisher. With no preparation beforehand, it took the testers 15 seconds to understand (from the time they picked it up to the time they started using it), it put out grease and towel fires in two seconds each, and it got three out of three stars for performance and ease of use. It’s not going to pass muster on the jobiste, of course; but for home use, we second Cook’s Illustrated‘s winner, and we hope you never have to use it.

As for everything else, keep the golden rule of safety in mind next time you’re in the market for an equipment upgrade: it must be easy!

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