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Do you need to carry a fire extinguisher in a company vehicle?

The Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 treats a vehicle like a workplace. Workplaces may have a need for a fire extinguisher, so does it follow that some vehicles should also carry a fire extinguisher when they are used for work?

Legislation

Worksafe does not say that your road vehicles must carry a fire extinguisher in a car or truck. It does say that certain vehicles must, for example, self-propelled plant on farms, but this doesn’t include company vehicles you would drive on the road.

NZTA and ACC produce a safe driving policy guidebook which does state “all vehicles should be fitted with a fire extinguisher, a
first aid kit, a torch, a reflective vest and an emergency triangle” but this document was last updated in 2010, well before the HSWA was released.

The Health and Safety at Work (Hazardous Substances) Regulations 2017 clause 16.42 defines requirements for a road tank wagon with a capacity of more than 2000 litres.

Passenger service vehicles with more than 12 seating positions must have a fire extinguisher.

Vehicles that carry certain types of flammable goods should carry a fire extinguisher.

It is advisable that company vehicles carry a first aid kit.

Reasons why you should not carry a fire extinguisher unless necessary

The advice most commonly given is that if your car catches fire, you should get as far away from it as possible and call emergency services rather than risk injury to yourself. Unless you’re driving a racing car, fire extinguishers are usually kept in the boot as they are heavy and need to be fitted with brackets to stop them becoming a missile in a crash. This means you’d need to get out of the car, open the boot, then go back to where the fire was.

Secondly, it’s advised that anyone using a fire extinguisher must have had training in how to use it so that they know what type of fires require what type of extinguisher, how to aim the extinguisher, etc.

Finally, a fire extinguisher does add some weight (albeit fairly minor) which has a small effect on fuel economy, and it takes up room in the boot.

Reasons why you should carry a fire extinguisher

If you are trained in how to use a fire extinguisher and how to treat fire safely, you may be able to help yourself or another person when there is fire danger.

If you work remotely in areas where you might cause a fire, for example, you drive a vehicle across grass that might be dry in order to repair remote equipment like electricity pylons.

What to look for when buying a fire extinguisher for your vehicle

Vehicle fires will consist of material burning in the vehicle and potentially fuel burning. Look for a dry powder extinguisher that covers ABE (A = ordinary combustibles such as wood, paper and plastic; B = flammable liquids; E = electrical equipment). If there’s a number in front of the letters it equates to how big a fire can be extinguished. Make sure it comes with a bracket. You will need to either replace or recharge your fire extinguisher periodically.

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Darren is a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists and the NZ Motoring Writers' Guild

Posted in Advice
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