The combination of hazardous activities, such as hot work, large quantities of fuel, flammable liquids, wood, liquefied gas (LPG), and potential issues with escape mean that construction sites pose a very real fire risk. A fire on a construction site not only puts the lives of workers at risk but can also cause damage to the site and the surrounding area as well as being financially devastating for businesses.
Fires can and do kill, injure and cause serious human suffering and financial loss. The potential dangers are particularly severe on many construction sites, where high-risk activities such as hot work are frequently combined with circumstances where fires can spread quickly and escape may be difficult. In the photo of today, we will speak about preventing fires from starting and ensuring people’s safety if they do.
The presence of combustible waste materials, solvents, hot works processes, and unfinished electrical systems. There is also an amplified risk of destruction, trespass, and malicious acts.
The nature of the incomplete building and the storage of building materials on site which are often combustible surges the damage caused once a fire does take hold, and can also pose bigger risks to fire and rescue teams.
Fire risk assessment
Most construction site fires have simple causes and can be dealt with by simple precautions. The legislation requires that whoever is in control of the construction work must have carried out a risk assessment and be able to demonstrate that they have:
- Identified the risks in their workplaces.
- Considered who will be affected.
- Assessed the extent of the risks.
- Identified measures to reduce, or remove the risk.
- Put in place those measures.
Every construction site, no matter how small or low risk, should have an emergency plan. In finished buildings, there will always be alternative escape routes. However, when the building is under construction this may not be the case and a fire on a construction site can trap people. The purpose of an emergency plan is to make sure everyone on the site can reach safety in the event of a fire.
The plan should:
- Be prepared before the work starts.
- Be regularly updated and appropriate for the work being carried out.
- Detail individual’s responsibilities during a fire.
- Where Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 (CDM) apply to be incorporated in the construction phase health and safety plan. ( Know more:e-books-fire-engineering-and-emergency-planning/)
Fire warning systems
A fire warning system will alert people to a fire on the site, allowing them to escape safely and quickly. On a small low-risk site shouting, ‘fire’ may be enough to raise the alarm. On a larger or high-risk site, it may be appropriate to have a manual bell or battery-operated site alarm with a distinctive sound that can be heard above the noise of the site. The fire alarms should be tested at least once a week.
Fire fighting equipment
Carrying out a risk assessment on the site will identify the hazards and the type of equipment required. On a small or low-risk site a single fire extinguisher may be sufficient. On a large or high-risk site, it may be necessary to install a fixed system such as fire sprinklers.
Whatever the equipment needed on the site, it is important that:
- Fire equipment is located close to work areas and is easily accessible.
- The correct extinguishers are chosen.
- Extinguishers are serviced and in good working order.
- Everyone on the site is trained in basic firefighting techniques.
Here are 13 top tips for fire prevention on the site:
- Plan chosen areas for waste with fire and emergency procedures in place to curb and deal with a fire should it break out.
- Clear away rubbish and waste frequently to the chosen areas. Don’t let waste materials build up around the site.
- Never try to dispose of rubbish by burning it. Site ‘bonfires’ are prohibited and can get out of control easily.
- Electrical systems, comprising short-term supplies, must only be installed by a skilled electrician and must be frequently maintained.
- Site compounds are susceptible to fire because of: temporary heaters, smoking, intermittent occupation, clothes drying, waste packaging, old newspapers, etc. Additional checks should be in position prior to leaving the site compound.
- Short-term heaters must be appropriately installed in a safe position and have guards fixed. Heaters should not be left unoccupied.
- High-intensity lights should not be hidden or placed near flammable material. They must be firmly fixed to stop them from falling over. Treat them as though they are heaters.
- Do not smoke in areas of high fire risk or chosen ‘no smoking’ areas. Dispose of matches and cigarette butts cautiously.
- Control all hot works by a permit to work system to make certain that risks are effectively controlled.
- Before beginning hot works make sure the nearby region is free of flammable material. Non-removable items must be covered with heat-proof blankets. Don’t underrate how far radiant heat and sparks can travel.
- Stop hot work at least 1 hour before the end of the shift, with fire checks at 30-minute interludes and up to and as well as 1 hour after the conclusion of the work.
Always have suitable fire extinguishers readily to hand and a fire and emergency plan in place. Ensure this forms part of the induction procedure for all site operatives
Ensure that everyone knows their part in the fire safety plan. Know where extinguishers are and how to use them. Know the evacuation procedure and escape routes.
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Photo of the day: Construction Site Fire safety
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