Construction Site Fire Safety

The danger of potential fire breakings is one of the many risks faced by the workers in the construction sites. Construction site fires are highly destructive. Any fire incidence in the place can incur damage in three ways –

  • Loss of materials (structural damage; destruction of machinery, equipment or materials);
  • Delays to construction; and
  • Risk to lives of construction workers, firefighters as well as bystanders.

With many fire incidences occurring each year, this is important to understand the factors that cause fire break and make a prevention and control plan.

Reasons for Fire Incidences

Construction site can quickly become a dangerous environment with it hosting all three elements needed to start a blaze –

  • A source of ignition,
  • A source of oxygen, and
  • A source of combustible elements.

The refurbishment, demolition and reconstruction areas in the construction sites are the most highly risked areas that can easily start ignition. These places usually conceal old electrical cabling or dry wood from the view of the workers. These elements, coupled with use of equipment that generates heat and sparks, lack of completed built-in fire-safety systems or fire separations and negligence, can start fire at the slightest chance.

In terms of hazardous and combustibles elements, rubbery insulating materials, adhesives to timber, plastics as well as LPG (Liquid Petroleum Gas) are some of the most hazardous elements present in any area of the construction sites. Besides, any plant equipment fuel; vehicles that happen to be on site during a fire breakout as well as certain building framework and/or roof coverings can become fatal if the fire goes unattended for a long period.

Fire Prevention and Control

The risks and possibility of damage make it essential to design an effective fire prevention and control/extinguishing plan to be developed. This needs to be done before the construction works begin and follow it throughout the course of the construction.

To make a fire prevention plan, it is essential to understand the risks associated with fire through formal evaluation. It is necessary to identify the hazards and the people at risk and then act to remove and reduce or control the risk to ensure people and premises are protected. Based on the evaluation, the nature of the plan might be unique for different construction sites. The following is a list of some of the best practices around the world that are included in the fire prevention and control plan in construction plan –

Plan related to personnel

  • Assignment of responsibility and authority: Clearly assign and spell out the responsibility for site fire protection before the start of the project
  • Engaging concerned authority: Making the local fire department and local police aware of construction plans and keeping them up to date about any untoward incidence
  • Fire investigation: Periodic site inspections by the person responsible for fire prevention and control
  • Training in emergency procedures: Providing fire prevention and control training to the concerned workers. Providing emergency telephone numbers to all workers

Plan related to equipment

  • Proper storage and adequate ventilation of flammable and combustible liquids
  • Storage of fuel gas and oxygen cylinders upright and secure in safe locations, protected from high temperatures and adequately separated from each other.
  • Obtain hot work permits
  • Providing watch service at night and during non-working days as soon as construction is started for construction projects
  • Keeping the quantities of combustible materials that are kept inside the building to minimal and storing them away from construction activities.
  • Removing all combustible refuse, including scrap materials, packaging and waste paper regularly.
  • Prohibiting on-site burning of combustible refuse