How to prepare for fire safety hazards on lorries

How to prepare for fire safety hazards on lorries

There’s always a danger from fire safety hazards on lorries and vans – the white van in our picture proves it. At one moment it was just a white van; the next it was on fire. Without the equipment required by law, and the driver’s skill in using it, such an accident could happen near you tomorrow. It could even happen to you tomorrow. Let it highlight how having a fire extinguisher could have made the outcome very different…

In this YouTube video clip we see an example of the fire safety hazards present on lorries. Admittedly it’s an extreme example, but it perfectly highlights the potential immediate dangers to vehicles, to passers-by, and to neighbouring properties.

The flames and smoke carry away with them not only the straw bales, but also the effort that went into planting the seed, growing and harvesting the crop, and loading it for safe storage. In the longer term they also have financial implications, and could cause reputational damage.

Whilst it’s fair to say that bringing the straw fire under control was a task beyond the tractor driver, even equipped with a fire extinguisher, the driver of the delivery van in the picture might have saved his van when the fire was much smaller. Was he carrying a fire extinguisher? Either he wasn’t, or he couldn’t get to it quickly enough to be able to use it. Any what about the collateral damage? The grass in the neighbouring field looks dry; did it escape the fire, I wonder?

Fire extinguishers on lorries: The law

It’s because of the fire hazards on lorries that commercial vehicles are required to carry fire extinguishers, with the type and size dictated by the European ADR Regulations. These don’t talk about vans and lorries, but ‘transport units’, and are very specific about weights.

To start with, regardless of whether they’re carrying dangerous goods or not, all are required to carry a 2kg extinguisher capable of putting out fires of classes A,B, and C in engine bays and cabs. The regulations suggest a dry powder extinguisher is preferred, but also say: ‘or an equivalent capacity for any other extinguishing agent’.

Weight-related fire extinguisher rules

Vehicles up to an including 3.5 tonnes: One or more portable extinguishers for use against fires in classes A, B, and C with a minimum total capacity of 4kg of dry powder. (However, once again the rule about ‘equivalent capacity for any other extinguishing agent’ applies, as it does in all three categories).

Vehicles between 3.5 tonnes and 7.5 tonnes: The total extinguisher capacity rises to 8kg dry powder, with one extinguisher having at least a 6kg capacity.

Vehicles over 7.5 tonnes: A 6kg dry powder extinguisher is called for to put out cab and engine bay fires (unless a fixed system is installed), but it’s also compulsory to carry one or more 12kg dry powder extinguishers.

The Health and Safety Executive digests this information in a handy three-page guide click here to view.

The drivers and fire safety hazards on lorries

If a fire starts in a van or lorry, the person best-placed to fight it is the driver, using one of the extinguishers detailed above. However, in the heat of the moment is no time to start to learn about how to use fire extinguishers.

ADR regulations require that there should be individual practice sessions as well as theoretical training in a number of areas, including fire-fighting. Specifically, ADR regulation 8.3.2 calls for the vehicle crew to know how to use the extinguishers provided on the vehicle.

Fire classifications

Class A: Fires involving solid materials, often organic, which form glowing embers

Class B: Fires involving liquids (but not cooking oils) or liquefiable solids

Class C: Fires involving gases

Picture: Duncan Noakes | Dreamstime

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