There are numerous sources of ignition at a construction site which places the workplace at risk of fire. So, fire prevention must be a top concern for employers when planning and managing construction work. Although various elements contribute to the threat of fire at a construction site, the good news is that this could be prevented.
Therefore, for your guidance, in this blog, we will highlight seven key points on how you, as an employer, can help prevent fires from originating at your construction site.
Legal requirements for construction sites
The regulation of Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 (CDM) dictates specific duties related to fire safety and identify factors that should be considered when preparing for fire safety arrangements on the construction site.
The CDM regulation states that specific suitable, and sufficient steps must be taken to prevent the risk of injury to a person during their work at a construction site. The reasons mentioned are; fire or explosion, flooding, and asphyxiation.
Causes for fires at construction sites
Due to various factors present at a construction site can lead to a fire being started, construction sites falls under high risk of fire.
Suppose these factors can be eliminated or controlled. In that case, the chances of the fire starting and escalating to where life can be at risk could be significantly reduced.
Electrical faults are due to electrical systems and portable equipment at a construction site. Many live wires are present at a construction site, and the power generators are used for construction work.
It is the employer’s responsibility to test all the electrical installations, inspect them before using them, and know how to use them properly to reduce risks related to them.
Hot working – How works involve all the processes involving heat generation by a naked flame, electrical arc, sparks, and using bitumen boilers or grinding.
Smoking – As flammable materials are everywhere on a construction site, smoking can be seen as a threat. A cigarette that is not adequately extinguished can come in contact with these flammable materials and can cause a possible fire.
Temporary lighting and lamps – Lighting is required in some areas on a construction site where the other light sources, such as the sunlight, cannot properly reach. So to overcome this problem, temporary lighting is installed in these areas. The hazard here is that these lightning sources can become very hot, and when comes in contact with combustible material, they can ignite a fire. Also, leak electricity from these lighting sources can pose a fire risk. To prevent all this, you should ensure that this temporary lighting is placed away from combustible materials. Also, lamp holders should be given to hold these lights, holders would act as insulation and prevent electric leaks.
Friction and mechanical sparks – sparks are a common threat at the construction site. Workers use heavy machines and equipment that generate friction and sparks causing ignition at the nearby fuel sources.
Flammable liquids and gases include fuels such as gasoline, diesel, propane, and acetylene. They are commonly used on construction sites for powering equipment and vehicles.
Combustible material – Combustible materials are fundamental to the site’s safety. These include wood, paper, cardboard, and plastics. They are used in construction for building, insulating, and finishing. They should be stored within a limit and away from any ignition sources.
Construction materials – These include insulation, adhesives, and paints. They contain flammable or combustible chemicals and ignite when exposed to a spark or heat.
Waste materials – These include sawdust, debris, and packaging. They can accumulate on construction sites and ignite easily.
Fire prevention tips for construction sites
Fire risk assessment: Risk assessment is an integral part of workplace safety. It is the process of analyzing and identifying the possible hazards that are present in a workplace.
Similarly, by conducting a fire risk assessment at your construction site, you can identify the potential hazards at your workplace that can lead to fire originating. After identifying these hazards, appropriate action should be taken against them to reduce or mitigate their risk.
Ultimately, an employer is responsible for carrying out a fire risk assessment at the construction site. However, the employer can hire another professional to conduct a fire risk assessment or train their staff accordingly to make them competent enough to conduct a risk assessment.
Employers can provide fire risk assessment training to their employees, teaching them how to conduct a risk assessment effectively.
Provide adequate extinguishers: Employers should ensure they provide fire extinguishers across different areas at construction sites. The provision of fire extinguishers would allow the nearby person to extinguish the fire before it escalates and becomes big trouble.
Although while placing a fire extinguisher at your workplace, you should choose the correct type so that the fire extinguishing process can be as smooth and effective.
Having a fire plan: A fire plan and ensuring everyone at the construction site knows it is one of the most critical safety tips. Employers should make sure that they draw and plan out an effective fire plan that would allow the workers and other people on the construction site to evacuate from the fireplace in an emergency.
Keeping the site clean: Fires need fuel to grow. Allowing combustible materials to lay around your workplace would invite the fire to ignite and spread. Therefore, ensuring the site is always clean is essential to minimize the risk of fire accidents. Ensure you don’t throw waste here and there and always properly dispose of the garbage in the trash cans.
Electrical safety: There is a lot of electrical use at a construction site. Which makes electrical faults a fire hazard on construction sites. To avoid electrical fires, you must ensure that trained professionals perform all the electrical installments at your construction site.
Additionally, carrying out portable appliance testing more frequently at your workplace is essential. Conducting PAT tests would help in maintaining the electrical appliances. It would ensure that it is safe for use, reducing the threat of an electrical fire.
Heaters: Construction sites can be relatively cold, especially in winter. In this scenario, using heaters is quite common in the workplace. You must place these heaters safely and have proper guards fixed.
The surfaces of these heaters can cause possible fires in case of coming in contact with flammable materials. So, it is important that while using heaters, you should take preventive measures so things do not go out of control.
Training: Training is a crucial element of workplace safety. Training educates individuals on gaining a new skill set to perform their tasks more effectively. Similarly, fire safety is not something that every worker at a construction site would be adequately aware of.
For that, employers must provide their staff with adequate fire awareness training to ensure that they are aware of all the safety precautions that would help prevent workplace fires.
Fire awareness training also teaches the trainee about fire evacuation drills and procedures and how they can ensure their well-being and their colleagues in case of a workplace fire. These types of training programs can be very effective, and therefore, the employer needs to provide their staff with appropriate fire awareness training.
Why is fire prevention important?
Fire prevention is paramount on a construction site because fires can cause significant property damage, result in serious injuries or fatalities, and lead to project delays and financial losses. Here are some reasons why fire prevention is crucial on a construction site:
Protecting workers: Fire prevention is essential for the safety of the employees. Fires can cause injuries, smoke inhalation, and burns to workers, endangering their safety and well-being. By preventing fires, workers can carry out their jobs in a safe and secure environment.
Preventing property damage: Construction sites often contain expensive machinery, tools, and materials. Fires can cause significant damage to these assets, leading to costly repairs or replacements.
Project delay: Fires can cause project delays by damaging critical equipment or materials, which can cause work to stop until they are repaired or replaced.
Financial losses: Fires can cause significant financial losses to a construction company by damaging expensive equipment and materials, causing project delays, and increasing insurance premiums.
Meeting legal requirements: Construction sites must comply with fire safety regulations and codes to ensure they are safe for workers and the public. Non-compliance with these regulations can result in legal fines and penalties.
In conclusion, fire prevention is a critical aspect of safety on construction sites and should not be taken lightly. By following the seven fire prevention tips outlined in this article, construction site managers and workers can significantly reduce the risk of fires and protect their workers, property, and the public.
While working at a construction site, you must know the causes of construction fires. Regular inspections, hazard assessments, employee training, and strict safety protocols are crucial to preventing fires and promoting safety on construction sites.
Implementing these measures allows construction companies to avoid financial losses, project delays, and legal penalties. Most importantly, they can protect the lives and well-being of their workers and the public.
Remember, prevention is always better than cure, and it is better to take preventive measures to avoid fires than to deal with the consequences of a fire.