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28th September, 2018

13 Fire Prevention Tips For Construction Sites

Construction sites are one of the highest risk places for fire, and the simple tips we are about to share can help prevent fires starting on your sites.

First, let's consider why construction sites, in particular, are at an increased risk of fire. This increased risk of fire is due to a variety of factors.

  • The presence of flammable waste materials
  • The use of flammable and explosive substances like gases and solvents
  • The type of work activities including hot works processes and incomplete electrical systems
  • There is an increased risk of vandalism, trespass and malicious acts
  • The nature of the unfinished building
  • The storage of building materials on site which are often flammable increases the damage caused once a fire does take hold, and can also pose increased risks to fire and rescue teams

Fire prevention must, therefore, be a top priority when planning and managing construction work.

Here are our 13 top tips for fire prevention on site:

1. No fires

This really is a simple tip, the first rule of fire prevention, don't start a fire!

Never attempt to dispose of rubbish by burning it. Site ‘bonfires’ are forbidden as they can get out of control easily.

2. Keep clear

One of the things a fire needs to ignite and grow is fuel. Many waste materials on construction sites like packaging, pallets and offcuts are a perfect source of fuel for fires.

Clear away rubbish and waste regularly to the designated areas. Don’t let waste materials build up around the site.

3. Plan for waste

Keeping your site clear is one thing, but waste has to go somewhere. Plan designated areas for waste with fire and emergency procedures in place to confine and deal with a fire should it break out.

Ideally skips and other waste containers should be away from the site boundary to reduce the risk of arson, and away from buildings and storage of flammable substances.

4. Safe electrics

Electrical systems, including temporary supplies, must only be installed by a competent electrician and must be regularly maintained.

Don't forget about portable electrical equipment, which can be easily damaged on site due to trailing cables and during use. Keep up to date with your PAT testing and visually check equipment for faults or damage before use.

5. Check the compound

Site compounds (site office, welfare facilities etc) are vulnerable to fire because of items like temporary heaters, smoking, intermittent occupation, clothes drying, waste packaging, old newspapers etc.

Extra checks should be in place prior to leaving the site compound.

fire damage

6. Beware of heaters

Construction sites can be cold places to work, especially in winter. Temporary heaters are important for keeping the team warm when they have been working outside or in a building with no proper heating system installed or running.

But temporary heaters must be properly installed in a safe position and have guards fixed. Heaters should not be left on unoccupied and should be kept away from combustible materials.

7. and Lights!

Lights also produce heat and can act as an ignition source on site, especially high-intensity floodlights, but lights of any size pose a risk.

High-intensity lights should not be covered or placed near combustible material. They must be securely fixed to prevent them from falling over. Treat them as though they are heaters.

8. No smoking

Smoking should be carefully controlled and confined to a designated area, on or off-site.

Do not smoke in areas of high fire risk or outside of any designated smoking areas. Dispose of matches and cigarette butts carefully.

9. Permits for hot works

Hot works are a big fire risk. Control all hot works by a permit to work system to ensure that risk is adequately controlled.

Before starting hot works ensure the surrounding area is free of combustible material. Non-removable items must be covered with heatproof blankets. Don’t underestimate how far radiant heat and sparks can travel.

10. Fire checks

Stop hot work at least 1 hour before the end of the shift, with fire checks at 30-minute intervals and up to and including 1 hour after completion of the work.

11. Provide extinguishers

Ok, not exactly a fire prevention tip, since a fire will have already started if you're using an extinguisher. But used correctly, an extinguisher can put out a small fire, stop it spreading, growing and becoming a major emergency on site.

Not sure about the different types of fire extinguishers? Download the free fire extinguishers toolbox talk and find out.

Always have fire extinguishers readily to hand throughout the site. Make sure they are suitable for the types of fires that may occur, and that enough people are trained how to use them properly.

12. Plan for fire

Put 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, where extinguishers are and how to use them, the evacuation procedure and escape routes, and the rules in place to prevent fires.

13. Fire focus

Cover fire safety and prevention rules at induction, and run regular fire topics during toolbox talks throughout the project. Especially important if you notice fire safety standards slipping during the project, for example, waste materials piling up on site or blocking escape routes.

This helps raise awareness with your team and increased compliance with the fire prevention rules on site.

Use the construction fire prevention toolbox talk to discuss important fire safety and prevention rules with your team.

This article was written by Emma at HASpod. Emma has over 10 years experience in health and safety and a degree in construction management. She is NEBOSH qualified and a member of IOSH.

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