Fire Risks and Hazards on Construction Sites
Construction sites are high-risk areas that are prone to fires. The danger of a potential fire breaking is more significant on construction sites, as they typically contain the three main components required to start a fire: an ignition source, an oxygen source, and a fuel source.
The most at-risk construction sites include those that are being refurbished, demolished or reconstructed. Every year, there are many fires on construction sites where the property is destroyed; this creates unexpected damage which can be expensive to replace or fix.
In the worst-case scenario, fires can often cause injuries to workers and even death, which can be an event that many businesses never recover from. Therefore, it can be said that fire safety is crucial for the protection and survival of a construction site.
The primary purpose of a fire hazard risk assessment is to identify and understand the most common causes of a fire. It is important to conduct this assessment, to better evaluate the most suitable way to diminish the risk of a fire.
The most common hazards on construction sites include:
Flammable and combustible materials – Over the recent years, flame retardant materials are increasingly being utilised on construction sites. However, some specific materials used to cover up roofs, or even particular scaffolding, could potentially end up as fuel in a fire. Fuel such as LPG (Liquid Petroleum Gas) is commonly used throughout the construction site and poses as a highly flammable hazard. The same can be said for any other type of fuel that is used to power the construction equipment and machines.
Hot work – Most construction companies use welding, soldering, grinding and other hot work tasks in their work process. This is problematic, as the sparks and heat from these activities pose a significant fire risk, and can be the source of ignition when placed close to combustible material.
Arson – Construction sites are prime locations for arsonists to strike as it can prove to be an easy opportunity to start a fire. Ensuring that your construction site security strategy has implemented access control and is secure 24/7, is essential to avoid trespassers who could potentially start fires. Proper waste management is also critical, to prevent having combustible materials on site which can be used for arson.
Smoking – It is recommended that smoking should not be permitted on the site at any time. The presence of combustible and flammable materials can make smoking a fire risk, and should be avoided, for the safety of your employees and your construction site. Designated smoking areas should be provided and should be located away from the main work site.
Lighting fixtures – Temporary lighting is an essential part of a working construction site, as illumination of specific areas is necessary. Lighting can become a hazard if they are placed too close to combustible materials, they are damaged, or they overheat. Not allowing lights and lamps to cool down can cause them to explode and potentially start a fire. Light fixtures should be securely positioned to avoid them being dislodged. Consistent inspection of temporary lighting on your construction sites, and removing any broken units, is critical to reducing the risks of fires starting.
Electrical faults – Electrical equipment come in many shapes and forms, and can be found on construction sites. Whether it be the use of electrical wiring from the mains source, or using power generators, any electrical unit proves to be a fire risk. All electrical units are required to must have passed the Portable Appliance Testing (PAT) and be consistently inspected and retested throughout its use. Adequate monitoring of electrical units helps to ensure that risks associated with electrical faults are minimised, and reduces the likelihood of an electrical fire.
How to protect your construction site
Implementing the correct fire safety procedures is critical to preventing a fire from spreading. This involves actions, such as installing wireless fire alarms, having firefighting tools in several locations, and conducting a fire safety risk assessment. Planning and training employees on fire safety is another step to take to protect your employees and your construction site.