Fires on construction sites pose a significant hazard to busy workplaces. They can cause a lot of damage, from ruined property to injuries and even fatalities. Those in charge of running construction sites need to take fire safety seriously and control the hazards that could lead to a fire. Fire hazards need to be controlled so that the risk of fire can be managed.
Fire Safety on Construction Sites
There are legal requirements and regulations for fire safety on construction sites, but many incidents still take place every year. In England, there were 242 fires in buildings under construction in 2018-19. Forty-four of these fires (18% or one-fifth) were caused by hot work, with the main causes being welding and cutting equipment, combustible articles too close to a heat source, and the use of a blow torch or other industrial equipment. In Scotland during the same period, almost 80% of the 180 fires were caused by hot work. Although a permit is a legal requirement for most types of hot work, training in the area is not.
Fire hazards on construction sites are managed so that the risk of fire is reduced. To do this, it’s necessary to identify potential hazards, which could lead to damage or injury from fire. Preventing fire on construction sites can be achieved by identifying hazards such as fuel hazards and ignition risks. Once these hazards have been outlined, the correct steps can be taken to prevent fire.
Types of Fire Hazards
Two main types of fire hazard to pay attention to on a construction site are fuel hazards and ignition risks. Ignition risks include hazards such as electrical faults, hot working, smoking, lighting, portable heaters, and even arson. Fuel hazards include combustible building components, fire retardant scaffolds and temporary covering materials, flammable gasses and liquids, and waste materials.
Combustible materials should be managed so that only those that are necessary are kept on site. Material quantities shouldn’t exceed the amount needed for a day’s work, and materials should be stored appropriately to reduce the risk of fire. Ignitable substances shouldn’t be left close to fuel sources. Timber frame buildings can be at particular risk of serious fires, and special care will need to be taken on these sites.
Fire Protection and Prevention Equipment
The right equipment on construction sites can help to prevent and manage the risk of fire. Fire alarm systems provide early warning of potential fires, alerting the emergency services and warning people on the site to evacuate. It’s important to pay attention to the requirements for warning systems, which depend on the size of the site. There are both hardwired alarms and wireless alarms, which can include buttons for activating the alarms in the event of a fire. Fire detectors might be needed to link to alarm systems on larger sites.
Other fire protection and prevention equipment that can be useful includes fire extinguishers and fire blankets. These items should be stored appropriately, and the right types of fire extinguishers should be installed. Different extinguishers are appropriate for different categories of fire. People working on-site should be aware of what type of extinguisher to use for different fires, and extinguishers should also have clear instructions. The wrong type of extinguisher used on the wrong type of fire could exacerbate the situation and cause the fire to spread. Fire blankets are useful for preventing the spread of a small fire before it gets worse.
Fire Control Measures
In addition to fire protection equipment, there are other fire control measures that should be taken on construction sites. These include having an appropriate number of emergency routes and exits, allowing on-site workers to leave the site safely in the event of a fire. Suitable signs must be used to signpost exit routes, and workers should be instructed in the location and use of any firefighting equipment that is provided.
Relevant Legislation and Industry Regulations
There are several pieces of legislation that are necessary to understand for the purposes of fire safety on a construction site. Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 (CDM) defines fire safety duties and factors that need to be taken into account. Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (FSO) (England and Wales) defines who is responsible for enforcement. A Fire Risk Assessment is one of the duties that must be carried out as part of fire safety compliance.
Fire safety on construction sites must be managed well to prevent fires from causing damage and injury and to protect the site and project.