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Brian Soo - 23 November 2020
The Chances of a Fire Extinguisher Exploding
With the recent news of a fire extinguisher exploding and causing casualty, we have been bombarded with questions regarding the safety of having a fire extinguisher. In the article below, we explain the chances of a fire extinguisher exploding.
In terms of safety, fire extinguishers manufactured in Malaysia are recommended to be tested by SIRIM & Bomba. The tests conducted by SIRIM & Bomba encompasses the efficiency of the extinguishers, quality of build, and most importantly, safety.
With that being said, not all fire extinguishers available in the market are tested by SIRIM & Bomba. Hence, the first reason is if it is SIRIM Tested (or not).
SIRIM Tested (or not)
For SIRIM & Bomba approved Fire extinguishers, these extinguishers are tested on several criteria, one of which includes a burst test to ensure that the extinguishers burst(if and when they do) safely. Safely bursting includes bursting on the body of the cylinder, and not on the joints & seams. This is in compliance with the MS 1539 Standard for fire extinguishers.
For non approved fire extinguishers, the most common type of extinguishers are aerosol type fire extinguishers. Which has a shelf life of around 1-2 years and is of single-use. These extinguishers usually have relatively thin metal bodies which are prone to punctures (Think of a hairspray can).
Most people would think that heat would be the main cause of explosions for extinguishers. The SIRIM tested fire extinguishers have a working temperature of -20C to +60C. However, the bursting pressure is at 1200psi (However, our test showed that our 1kg ABC Dry Powder Fire Extinguisher was able to withstand up to 1750 psi before bursting safely). To raise the resting pressure of extinguishers of 175psi to 1200psi would need a lot of heat.
For those wondering if the extinguishers can withstand the heat of vehicles, yes it can! We've sold thousands of car vehicle fire extinguishers without any incidents as it has been tested for it. In fact, to gain a license for e-hailing, a fire extinguisher is needed in the vehicles.
While there is a very low chance of a fire extinguisher dropping from a height of 5m, we drop tested our 1kg ABC Dry Powder fire extinguisher from an overhead bridge at 5m. As you can see from the video, while the extinguisher was damaged and dented, it did not explode and was still functional.
Damage to the body of the extinguisher.
Depending on the type of damage, most of the time damages are dents and rust. As tested in the video, dents and massive blows to the extinguisher does not usually result to an explosion. However, if the extinguishers are tampered, and intentionally cut, there may be a possibility of an explosion.
In conclusion, there is a very low chance for a SIRIM tested fire extinguisher to explode unexpectedly in normal conditions. The most common misconception of ‘heat’ is also extensively tested under the standard. We highly advise that fire extinguishers to not be tampered with and only be used for emergencies.