forklift burnt by fireCredit to Mike Graves and John Smith for this article provided to Toyota technicians via the SAP training portal.

If it wasn’t for the hundreds of thousands of dollars in fire damage, the whole thing would have been funny. “It was that stupid,” Mike thought we could have called it “The Three Stooges Hit the Corporation Yard” or “How Not to Fuel Your Forklift.” None of us were thinking straight. We were all a little distracted when some horseplay combined to create a dangerous situation.

Mike, Harvey and Howard were doing routine service on the company’s forklifts. It was a cold day, so they had the warehouse doors closed and a portable heater on high. Mike was in the middle of refilling the gas tank on one of the forklifts when Harvey snuck up behind him and yelled “gotcha,” which was the punch line from one of the jokes that had had the three friends rolling with laughter at break. Mike jumped and dropped the gas can, spilling it on the floor. He cursed at Harvey and asked him to clean it up, but Harvey refused. This was an old building and the floor was uneven. As the two men argued, the gasoline trickled toward the heater.

Mike remembered that he and Harvey stood stunned, while Howard screamed at them to run. They followed Howard outside. Then someone shouted, “Grab the hose!” Harvey turned it on full blast and Mike carried it over to the door and aimed it into the warehouse. The fire immediately roared louder and seemed to flare up and spread. In a flash, Mike remembered that they had done the worst thing possible for a gasoline fire. He ran over to the out door fire extinguisher, grabbed it and headed for the warehouse doors. He aimed the extinguisher at the flames sweeping it back and forth, but the fire had grown too large to be controlled by the small extinguisher.

Yard fireThen Mike, Harvey and Howard had the same thought at the same moment – an explosion could occur any second. The friends ran and were only 20 yards away when a billow of flames roared out the window and sent black clouds of smoke into the sky. The fire department arrived in five minutes, but by that time the fire had already destroyed three vehicles and a good part of the roof.

Forklift and Related Safety Points

… What would you have done?

Horsing around on the job is never a good idea-but it can be downright dangerous when gasoline or other flammable liquids are involved. Even a small spill can generate a high concentration of flammable vapor, especially in an enclosed area. If an open flame or spark is nearby, the chances of ignition are high.

If gasoline catches fire, do NOT try to use water to put it out. Water spreads the burning liquid, allowing it to give off more flammable vapor and mix with more fire feeding oxygen. The result is a fire ball. Instead, use a Type B fire extinguisher, which is designed to blanket flammable liquids with a special chemical powder.

If you work with fuels, remember:

  • Work in a well ventilated area.
  • Keep ignition sources away.
  • Keep containers closed, clean up spills and fix leaks immediately.
  • Lend a hand when asked and be concerned for everyone’s safety.
  • Learn where fire alarm boxes are and know the locations of established escape routes.
  • Know where fire extinguishers are located, what ratings they carry and how to use them.
  • Flammable liquids must be stored in and poured from safety cans with self closing lids and flash arresters.

If a fire breaks out:

  • If it’s small and you are certain that it will not pose an immediate threat to you, your coworkers or the surrounding area, you may be able to put it out with a Type B extinguisher.
  • Regardless of the seriousness of the fire, always sound the fire alarm first, and then ask people to immediately evacuate the building.

Would you like a free safety survey of your building and material handling equipment. Give us a call or drop us a line, we’d be more than happy to work with you.

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