• Extinguishers: Why Fire Extinguishers Are Hazmat

    First, we need to understand what a hazardous material is. The definitions vary, but the Department of Transportation defines a hazardous material as “any substance or material that could adversely affect the safety of the public, handlers, or carriers during transportation.” They may also be referred to as Dangerous Goods or “DG”. Simply put, any product that can cause injury to a person, property, or the environment, if not handled properly, is considered a hazardous material.

    While a fire extinguisher is a life safety device, it is also a hazardous material when in transportation. Not only can the chemical inside the extinguisher cause eye irritation and respiratory issues, but it is essentially a pressurized cylinder that can cause these issues. Even fire extinguishers that are not completely empty are considered hazardous, as the contents can still be under pressure.

    While most fire extinguishers are now considered “Limited Quantity”, under 49 CFR 173.309(d), these shipments are still considered hazardous. It is important to know that Limited Quantity shipments are still hazardous shipments that have met an exemption. Limited Quantity shipments are exempt from certain labeling and packaging requirements, which allow them to be transported without hazmat paperwork. They are still required to meet all the criteria of 49 CFR 172.315.

    How can I identify if my product is a hazardous material?

    Checking the labels on the box is a quick way to see if your product could be considered hazardous. OSHA has developed new standards over the years that require manufacturers to label the product with specific information to protect workers dealing with hazardous material. If you would like more information, check the item’s SDS or Safety Data Sheet. This document is more of a deep dive into the hazards of the product and also advice on safety precautions that labeling may not cover.
    More information on OSHA’s standards.

    It is very important that the person tasked to transport or handle any hazardous materials is properly trained to do so. DOT and OSHA have specific regulations for employee and employer responsibility, regarding training. It is also important to keep up with regulations and codes as they continue to update. There are state and local regulations that cover the storage of hazardous materials. More information on this can also be had at the local fire department or emergency response commission.

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    Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the above Tech Series article are the author’s only and provide limited information. Although the information is believed to be reliable, Brooks Equipment Company, LLC expressly disclaims any warranty with respect to the information and any liability for errors or omissions. The user of this article or the product(s) is responsible for verifying the information’s accuracy from all available sources, including the product manufacturer. The authority having jurisdiction should be contacted for code interpretations.