What should I know about flash fires?

Within the oil and gas industry, the risk of a flash fire is quite high. Flash fires occur when flammable chemicals within the air suddenly ignite, which can lead to severe and potentially life-threatening injuries. While it's up to the management of an oilfield to do all they can to prevent flash fires from occurring, workers should also keep the following points in mind.

Firstly, there is a difference between these types of fires and what are known as fuel-fed fires. Flash fires can be intense but are usually short in duration. Conversely, fuel-fed fires continue to burn until the fuel feeding the fire has been depleted. For a flash fire to occur, three components must be in place. These are a heat source, fuel, and oxygen. The heat source can be anything from an engine to sparks from welding equipment.

With both types of fires, flame-resistant clothing is a must. Standard clothing can actually act as fuel to a flash fire, and exacerbate burn injuries as a result. Clothing will continue to burn until it's extinguished. Conversely, flame-resistant clothing will self-extinguish, which reduces the likelihood of a serious burn. It also prevents second-degree burns from occurring, which can be just as dangerous. 

Along with the proper fire-resistant clothing, it's equally important that these items are properly maintained. Clothing must be cleaned regularly to reduce the chance that it's contaminated with flammable substances and chemicals. In this case, disposable items might be best, since workers can rest assured of a clean wardrobe each work day. If a piece of clothing is compromised, it should also be patched using a similarly flame-resistant material. While it's up to the worker to ensure he or she is wearing the right protective equipment at all times, management must make sure that gear is readily available on the job.


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