16th March, 2021
Construction sites are at a high risk of fire, so fire prevention must be a top priority when planning and managing construction work. There are a few reasons why a fire could start on your site, but there are ways to make it less likely - here are 13 tips for fire prevention on construction sites.
Construction sites are one of the highest risk places for a fire to start. 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:
Fire prevention must, therefore, be a top priority when planning and managing construction work. The good news is, fire risk can be reduced. The simple tips we are about to share can help prevent fires starting on your sites.
Here are our 13 top tips for fire prevention on site:
The first rule of fire prevention, don't start a fire! This is a really simple tip, but even small fires that are started to get rid of construction waste or keep workers warm can easily get out of hand.
Never attempt to dispose of rubbish by burning it. Site ‘bonfires’ are forbidden as they can get out of control easily.
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.
Make sure you have somewhere for waste to go, and clear away rubbish and waste regularly to the designated areas. Don’t let waste materials build up around the site.
Keeping your site clear of rubbish 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 so that if a fire does start, it can't easily spread.
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 during construction work due to trailing cables and heavy use. Keep up to date with your PAT testing and visually check equipment for faults or damage before use.
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 before leaving the site compound.
Construction sites can be cold places to work, especially in winter. Temporary heaters are important for keeping people warm when your team 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 covered or left on unoccupied and should be kept away from combustible materials.
Lights also produce heat and can act as an ignition source, especially high-intensity floodlights. But lights of any size can 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.
Many fires can start accidentally, rather than intentionally, by something as simple as a discarded cigarette end.
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.
Hot works are a big fire risk. Control all hot works by a permit to work system to ensure that risk is adequately controlled. Hot work permits are issued to make sure than necessary checks are made before, during and after the work.
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.
Smouldering materials, hot equipment and stray sparks can start a fire after hot work has finished. 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.
Ok, not exactly a fire prevention tip, since the 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 your 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 you have the right types of extinguishers suitable for the classes of fire that may occur, and that enough people are trained how to use them properly.
Put a fire and emergency plan in place. Make sure this forms part of the induction procedure for all site operatives, so people know what to do.
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.
Cover fire safety and prevention rules at induction, and run regular fire topics during toolbox talks throughout the project. This is especially important if you notice fire safety standards slipping during the project. For example, if waste materials are piling up on the site or blocking escape routes.
Regularly talking about fire safety and prevention helps to raise awareness with your team and increased compliance with the fire prevention rules on your 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 BSc (Hons) Construction Management. She is NEBOSH qualified and Tech IOSH.
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