Fire! Don’t Fan the Flames on Construction Sites
Fires are a real threat on sites, especially during refurb work where you have a lot of dry timber and other fuel just lying around all over the place. And fire is one construction site danger that’s a threat to far more than the workers on site. They can easily spread and threaten nearby homeowners.
Keeping fire risks at bay takes three areas of control and preparation – controlling combustible materials on site, controlling ignition sources, and having clear escape routes.
Controlling Combustible Materials
A surprising number of materials (solid, liquid and gases) can burst into flames given half the chance. To reduce overall risks posed by combustible materials on-site;
- Use less flammable materials if possible, and also pay attention here to what combustible material is created when work begins – like wood turning into saw dust, etc.
- Reduce the quantity of flammable materials, if possible
- Store combustible materials outside buildings under construction
- Take extra care with very flammable materials – volatile ones like flammable liquids, gases, oxygen cylinders, etc.
- Watch where you store rubbish, which is often very flammable. So keep tidy!
- Watch out for sheets and coverings, like that used to cover materials or scaffolding, which are also often very flammable. You can get them in flame-retardant materials to be safer.
- Liquified Petroleum Gas (LPG) is especially dangerous, used in some boilers and often in site accommodation. This stuff can explode and cause serious damage. Take care where you use and store it.
- Take care with tanks and services, especially during demolition projects, which can ignite residue flammable liquids and gases in tanks.
Control Sources of Ignition
Even the most volatile of combustible materials are harmless until ignited. So control these sources with equal care.
- All hot work is dangerous. That is any work which creates heat, sparks or open flame. Make sure you completely clear the area of materials, have plenty of fire extinguishers handy, and keep an extra watch during the work – not just the worker doing the task.
- Electrical or engine-driven plant and equipment can overheat and create fire risks. Make sure you’re using the right equipment so it can handle the workload without overheating. And with plant equipment like lamps, make sure they’re all well fastened.
- Smoking is a big fire risk, make sure rules are followed.
- Take care to carefully install and inspect all electrical installations.
- Bonfires – it goes without saying but don’t allow them on site. Dispose of rubbish a safe way instead.
- Protect your site from arsonists with adequate security and good perimeter protection.
Means of Escape
And finally, always be prepared. If a fire does happen, you don’t want it to turn into a real disaster.
- Keep escape routes clear and unobstructed.
- Protect escape routes with fire doors and permanent fire separation when you can.
- Have alternative routes to ground level, never just one.
- Sign the routes well, and have them well-lit too. During a fire this may require emergency lighting.
- At the end of escape routes you need a good area for people to assemble so you can quickly see if anyone is missing.
On top of these factors, you should always have a good fire alarm or some other method of warning people of a fire, and of course the best-suited fire-fighting equipment for different types of fire. You can find more on that here
Your Quick Key Takeaways
- Prepare for a fire in advance.
- Keep good control of combustible materials, by reducing them, exchanging them for non-combustible ones where possible, and taking care where you store them.
- Carefully control all possible sources of fire ignition, which could include equipment overheating, any hot work that creates sparks and smoking in particular.
- Keep easy escape routes clear, well sign-posted and well-lit, with a safe gathering point at the other end.
Do you have any questions about preventing fires on construction sites?
Ask away, I’m happy to help.