Fire safety in construction is crucial when planning and managing a development project, with the obvious reason for this being so that nobody gets hurt. Fires have a significant risk in construction and are posed as being one of the 12 biggest risks in the health and safety of construction sites.
Whether you have a large or small construction site, fire prevention on construction sites is relevant for everyone working in this industry.
We’ve put together a list of tips on how to make sure that your construction safety and fire prevention practices are carried out correctly should you ever need to put it to use.
1. Carry out a fire risk assessment
It is crucial to carry out a fire risk assessment to ensure construction safety and prevent fires on a construction site.
To carry out a thorough fire risk assessment you must follow these steps:
- Identify the fire hazards
- Identify people at risk
- Evaluate, remove or reduce the risks
- Record your findings, prepare an emergency plan and provide training
- Review and update your risk assessment regularly
From carrying out a risk assessment, you will identify most of the risks that could cause a fire on your construction site and in turn will assist in the avoidance of harm and injuries from a fire and ensure fire safety in construction.
2. Reduce ignition sources
The first step of the fire risk assessment is to identify the fire hazards, one of the first things you should look out for is the ignition sources that could start a fire. The main sources of ignition on a construction site are:
- Hot work – the production of heat, sparks or flames from equipment can cause a fire if carried out near any fuel source. To prevent this it is important to make sure that this is done away from combustible materials, fire fighting equipment is in reach to extinguish a fire should this happen and also to always keep a cautious eye out when carrying out hot work
- Plant and Equipment
- Electric Installations
3. Reduce potential fuel sources (relocate if not in a safe place and need to keep)
You may have identified some fuel sources when looking out for the ignition sources and as mentioned earlier it is important that these two sources are stored/ carried out away from each other to prevent a fire on the construction site.
Fuel sources can be anything from timber, flammable liquids, scaffolding sheeting to rubbish to dispose of.
If you need to keep these fuel sources in order to construct the building, make sure to keep these in a safe distance from the ignition sources to reduce the risk of a fire on site.
4. Build fire protection into the building
All buildings should have fire protection built-in, so by incorporating this into the structure as early as possible and maintaining it throughout the construction, it will be able to help in the event of a fire and promote fire safety in construction.
5. Electrics are installed by a qualified electrician
By making sure that the electrics are installed correctly by a qualified electrician, this will reduce the risk of a fire from electrics.
As well as this, any electrical equipment that you use on-site should be PAT tested to ensure these items are not damaged or faulty before use, which could potentially cause a fire.
6. Fire alarm systems are in place
By putting fire alarm systems in place, this will significantly reduce the harm that a fire could cause to people, as obvious as it sounds this will straight away make everybody aware on site that they must evacuate.
To ensure this does make everybody aware, you should carry out weekly tests on the alarm systems to make sure they work properly in the event of a fire.
7. Fire fighting equipment is on-site
As mentioned before, it is crucial to have some fire fighting equipment on site, no matter what size the construction site is, whether this be extinguishers, sprinklers or both.
With this in mind, this must also be maintained and have regular servicing to ensure that they work efficiently should you need to use them and help you control the fire as much as possible before the fire service arrives.
8. Training your team
By training your team on how to use the fire fighting equipment this will help them stay calm should they need to use the equipment as they will have been provided with the knowledge on how to use this equipment correctly.
You may choose to send your staff on fire safety awareness training in order for them to know how to reduce the risks, deal with a fire if needed and escape safely in the event of a fire.
9. An emergency procedure is in place
It is important to have an emergency procedure in place in order for everybody to know that fire safety in construction is a vital part of their job and that they know what they need to do should a fire take place.
This includes ensuring that you have the following on your site:
- A clear passageway to all escape routes
- Clearly marked escape routes that are as short and direct as possible
- Enough exits and routes for all people to escape
- Emergency doors that open easily
- Emergency lighting where needed
- Training for all employees to know and use the escape routes
- A safe meeting point for staff
10. Make sure everyone is aware of emergency procedures
You should make everybody on your site aware of the details of the emergency evacuation plan and routes on a fire instruction notice, should a fire arise, these should be put up around the site next to fire exits and fire alarms (where possible).
11. Dedicated emergency escape routes are in place
Within your emergency evacuation plan, this should detail the emergency escape routes, which means that you MUST have dedicated escape routes for people to evacuate safely. As well as this, you must ensure that there is enough room on the construction site at all times for the fire service to access to extinguish a fire.
12. Have a dedicated smoking area
As mentioned previously, smoking is a potential source of ignition. Therefore, it is important to implement a dedicated smoking area in a safe place away from any fuel sources and a safe distance from the construction site.
13. Site security
You may have taken all procedures in reducing the risks of fire when working on-site, however, there is also the risk of arson. Steps you can take to prevent arson are making your site secure enough to avoid people accessing your site and starting a fire, as well as installing CCTV cameras and security lighting to deter individuals from the site.
It’s important to remember that whilst you can implement all of these tips to prevent fire on construction sites, that in the event of a fire you should stay calm and evacuate the site as quickly as possible.
It goes without saying that these tips will be relevant to some construction sites more than others and will depend on the type of construction that you are carrying out. However, by taking these tips into consideration, you will then be able to identify the ones most relevant to you and implement them effectively to ensure the fire safety of you construction site.