I agree with and have long advised science teachers of the NFPA 45 position (as well as the position of many states’ departments of education) on the correct AND incorrect use of fire blankets in labs to aid or protect victims of fire. Here are links to NIOSH and NSTA publications on equipping school labs with fire blankets.
At Flinn Scientific we also recommend the presence of fire blankets in science labs as a general “safety” blanket for use as a modesty curtain, as described by others here, as well as for other purposes. Some have suggested that “modesty” may be an outdated concept in a modern lab safety culture. Although safety cultures have changed dramatically and for the good over the past 40 years (indeed, the term “safety culture” may not have existed then), I have frequently re-told the following story from my personal experience, and I don’t mind giving the year, 1974.
It happened in an undergraduate research lab. A female student was heating an inorganic phosphorus reagent (a mustard-type compound) in a 1-L round-bottom flask. The flask shattered (as determined later, probably due to a star crack) and sprayed the student with the liquid. The student was immediately whisked to the safety shower where she removed all of her clothing EXCEPT her undergarments. (The phosphorus compound was corrosive and caused skin burns.) Where she had removed her clothing the student was “fine,” but she suffered third-degree burns requiring skin grafts (and a lengthy hospital stay) in the areas where she did NOT remove her undergarments. There’s modesty, and then there’s modesty, and if a safety curtain could have prevented those burns, it would have been a very good thing. [No, I wasn’t the student, and I wasn’t in the lab, but she was a good friend, and I visited her often in the hospital. She didn’t come back to finish her chemistry degree, but went to mortuary school instead…]
Another true story: a teacher called, saying that the fire blanket she purchased “didn’t work.” (Didn’t work, I thought? There are no moving parts.) Further asking clarifying questions, I learned that this was the third time the teacher had attempted to use the fire blanket to put out a small fire on the bench top. “It worked the first two times.” My advice centered on preventing those types of occurrences…
Irene G. Cesa, Ph.D.
Flinn Scientific, Inc.
On the post-shower/decon modesty question, I think a lab coat beats a blanket. The FR coats are pretty opaque even when wet, an added advantage over white polyester blends!
Donald Abramowitz, CIH
Environmental Health & Safety Officer
Bryn Mawr College
Bryn Mawr, PA
I have heard suggested that fire blankets could be used to wrap someone who has stripped and used the safety shower. You could also use the fire blanket for modesty if someone needs to strip and use the safety shower.
Debbie M. Decker, CCHO
Department of Chemistry
University of California, Davis
1 Shields Ave.
Davis, CA 95616
Birkett's hypothesis: "Any chemical reaction
that proceeds smoothly under normal conditions,
can proceed violently in the presence of an idiot."
From: DCHAS-L Discussion List [mailto:dchas-l**At_Symbol_Here**MED.CORNELL.EDU] On Behalf Of Elmore, Kimberly A
Sent: Thursday, July 31, 2014 1:43 PM
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] fire blankets in lab
This is very useful. Thank you for the post and discussion.
From: DCHAS-L Discussion List [dchas-l**At_Symbol_Here**MED.CORNELL.EDU] on behalf of Eric Clark [erclark**At_Symbol_Here**PH.LACOUNTY.GOV]
Sent: Thursday, July 31, 2014 4:11 PM
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] fire blankets in lab
This is the National Fire Prevention Association's opinion on fire blankets:
Clothing fires - modify NFPA 45 Annex 184.108.40.206 to add text similar to the following on fire
blankets: Fire blankets may be valuable in labs for a variety of purposes. One of those does not happen to be wrapping yourself in them to extinguish your clothing fire. In addition to trapping the heat, the fire blanket creates a chimney effect and directs the hot, toxic gases, and flames into your face, breathing zone and lungs. Someone else can get the blanket and use it to help smother the flames. Blankets can also be used for (1) shower modesty curtains, (2) wraps for after the shower, (3) a temporary stretcher, (4) to keep someone warm to avoid shock, (5) a pillow if the victim needs to be on the floor, and (6) to smother other fires.
Standard on Fire Protection for Laboratories Using Chemicals Minutes - November 15, 2012
Eric Clark, MS, CHMM, CCHO
Safety Officer, Public Health Scientist III Los Angeles County Public Health Laboratory
From: DCHAS-L Discussion List [mailto:dchas-l**At_Symbol_Here**MED.CORNELL.EDU] On Behalf Of Kennedy, Sheila
Sent: Thursday, July 31, 2014 12:40 PM
Subject: [DCHAS-L] fire blankets in lab
The DivCHAS email list talked about this 4 years ago (http://www.ilpi.com/dchas/2010/20100927b.html).
It seemed to me most commenters were in agreement that using a fire blanket to wrap a victim who is standing (with clothes on fire) would likely create a chimney effect, funneling hot gases to the victim's face. Neal L. said that NFPA had not commented on this - just changed their emphasis from fire blankets to "STOP! - DROP! - ROLL!"
Does anyone have a citation for this change?
Do you have blankets in your labs?
What do you teach about fire blankets?
It worries me that the vertical fire blanket cabinets are still on the market and I've found web pages (including one University safety program and Wikipedia) still teaching the "wrap the standing victim" method.
"Prudent Practices" recommends a fire blanket as a last resort, but doesn't give much explanation.
Sheila M. Kennedy, C.H.O.
Safety Coordinator | Teaching Laboratories Chemistry & Biochemistry |University of California, San Diego
9500 Gilman Dr. | La Jolla, CA 92093-0303
(858) 534 - 0221 | fax (858) 534 - 7687 s1kennedy**At_Symbol_Here**ucsd.edu<mailto:s1kennedy**At_Symbol_Here**ucsd.edu> | http://www-chem.ucsd.edu<http://www-chem.ucsd.edu/>
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