It should come as no surprise that construction sites are hazardous places. Unfortunately, as the number of construction sites grows, so too do the risks. As a result, construction sites are prime areas for fire to break out. Knowing the reasons and how to mitigate them is key. This article will examine what potential causes of fire exist on construction sites and give some great construction site fire safety tips to prevent them.
Construction Site Fires | A Serious Problem?
With industry experts predicting a 5% growth rate in construction all the way up to 2024, the US is building like never before. With the National Fire Protection Agency listing details of nearly 4000 construction site fires in four years, it is easy to see that it can be a common occurrence.
But why is it so seemingly common? What makes a construction site such a particular threat? Well, there are plenty of reasons. Let’s look at some in a little more detail. If we know the causes, we can look at solutions.
What Presents Fire Risks on Construction Sites?
If you’ve ever been on or near a construction site, you’ll have seen countless sources of ignition. One really risky area is referred to as hot work. Welding, cutting, grinding, drilling and melting are all activities that regularly occur on a construction site.
Grinding and welding, in particular, can create showers of sparks. While workers may down tools at the end of the day, the sparks can smolder and persist.
There are several solutions available. Implementing a fire watch along with a ‘cool down’ period is the best practice.
Construction sites aren’t widely regarded as the warmest places. They can also be busy. All too often, a heater can be left running at the end of the working day. When left next to combustible materials, this can be a recipe for disaster.
Creating a checking policy to ensure nothing is running at the end of the day is an easy and practical fix.
Smoking and carelessly discarded cigarettes are a particular hazard. This is especially true in non-designated areas. The key is to pick a safe location to allow people to ‘light up’ without endangering anyone else.
There are plenty of things that are flammable on construction sites. Wood shavings, dry-wall are the most obvious. There are also fluids, such as paint thinners, gasoline, and oils used daily.
Creating designated storage areas and reducing the amount of flammable material in any one place is an effective way to prevent uncontrollable fires.
When break areas are shared, often you’ll find that no one, in particular, is responsible for them. Grease can accumulate on cooking equipment, things are left on, and people are often in a rush to get in and out to maximize downtime. All of these factors can lead to a significant fire risk.
Designating a responsible individual and posting guidelines for use is a worthy use of time and resources.
Wiring and electrical sparks are more likely on construction sites. In parallel with this, you’ll also find temporary lighting. This can malfunction and is more likely to become damaged, presenting a real hazard.
Ensure that electrical wiring and systems are overseen by a qualified individual.
Cordless power tools often require high-powered lithium ion batteries. While not inherently dangerous when used and charged properly, they are extremely flammable and difficult to extinguish.
Always follow the guidelines on battery safety.
Because construction sites are often easy to access, they are a prime target for arsonists. You can reduce this threat by ensuring that construction sites are properly monitored and secured.
No Fire Protection
You can negate significant fire risk by ensuring that you have the means to quickly extinguish or isolate a fire if one should break out. There are many solutions to deal with fire on construction sites.
Limiting the Threat | Construction Site Fire Safety Tips
By ensuring you have adequate fire protection, you can limit the spread of fire effectively. In certain circumstances, you can also stop a fire from breaking out in the first place.
If you are unsure of the requirements, you could do your own research, but a better idea would be to seek the help of a qualified professional who can give detailed guidance. They can look at both active and passive fire protection systems around the site that will minimize risk.
Use Portable Solutions
While construction work is ongoing, there may be a sprinkler system. However, it may not be active. If this is the case, strategically located fire extinguishers (of the correct type) can be used to effectively fight a fire.
Establishing Escape Routes
It is vital to understand that people can easily and quickly vacate the affected area if the situation ever becomes unmanageable. Often on construction sites, designated fire escapes may not be present. This is something that has to be addressed as a matter of priority.
It is no secret that construction sites are not always the tidiest of places. Not only must fire escapes be planned and fitted but they must also be maintained and kept clear.
Have a Plan
An effective fire response plan is vital. The time to be thinking about how to escape a fire and smoke is not when it first occurs.
Raising the Alarm
Construction sites are noisy and are often spread out. Being able to effectively warn everyone that a fire may be present is vital in ensuring safety. Fraker Fire can install alarms and give advice on the best course of action.
Looking at data and guidance from the NFPA, solutions for construction site fire safety are hugely important. While there are many areas to consider, establishing efficient and reliable fire protection systems is the best way to prevent or limit the spread of fire on a construction site. Fraker Fire can offer expert guidance, advice, and systems implementation to protect your business.