7 best practices to prevent fires at construction sites


7 best practices to prevent fires at construction sites

If a fire breaks out at a construction site, it is often difficult to control, as large machinery and scaffolding can hinder firefighting efforts by blocking the path for rescue teams.

Perhaps the most prominent example of a devastating fire on a construction site is the Notre-Dame Cathedral. The Parisian landmark was undergoing extensive renovations when parts of it were completely engulfed in flames in April 2019. It took hours for rescue teams to finally bring the fire under control and extinguish it completely. What remained was a massive reconstruction project.

Although it may be many years before Notre-Dame is fully restored, it is due , it is due to reopen in December 2024. The cause of the fire remains unclear, but factors such as a carelessly discarded cigarette butt or a short circuit in an electrical line could have ignited the wooden roof structure.

The Notre-Dame fire highlights the importance of fire safety on construction sites. To help you keep your team and your site safe from fire, here are 7 fire safety best practices.

1. Set up a fire plan and procedure

Safety plans and risk assessments are a must on every construction site. A fire plan, which outlines how to respond in the event of a fire, should also be part of your safety plan. Everyone entering the construction site should be familiar with this plan to be best prepared for emergencies.

2. Provide fire extinguishers

A comprehensive safety and fire plan also includes equipping your construction site with an adequate number of fire extinguishers. These extinguishers must be clearly marked and easily accessible so that even untrained individuals can use them in the event of a fire. Regular, professional fire extinguisher tests should also be conducted to ensure that they function smoothly at all times. This helps to quickly contain fire accidents and prevent the spread of fire and larger damages.

3. Only light fires with permission

To minimize the risk factors for fires on construction sites, fires should only be lighted with permission. Especially the spontaneous burning of waste and rubbish, for example, to warm oneself by the fire in cold weather, can quickly become dangerous. Therefore, it is important to light fires on construction sites only for absolutely necessary purposes. This can prevent an inadvertently lighted fire from getting out of control and becoming a hazard.

4. Keep your construction site clean and have a waste disposal plan to prevent spreading fire

Keeping your construction site as clean as possible is a simple measure to quickly defuse potential fires. Because scattered, unused pallets, wood scraps, or other waste generated on construction sites provide perfect fuel for fires to spread rapidly.

To ensure that your construction site is effectively kept clean and that no waste posing a fire hazard is lying around, a waste disposal plan is recommended. This plan includes, among other things, categorizing your waste containers and placing them as far away from flammable material as possible. Ideally, you can lock the area where you store waste to protect it from sabotage by unauthorized persons.

5. Check electricals regularly

Short circuits and other electrical faults are among the most common causes of fires on construction sites. Therefore, it is essential to ensure that all your installations have been carried out by a qualified electrician. You should also have your electric equipment regularly inspected to quickly identify potentially dangerous faults. Additionally, dangling or tangled cables that are not strictly necessary should be eliminated as a source of hazard as much as possible.

6. Set rules for hot works and check if your fire precautions are in place regularly

Even though they naturally pose a potential fire risk, it is unavoidable that heat is generated by equipment used on construction sites. For example, welding machines produce flying sparks and smoldering materials that can lead to fires and even explosions. Therefore, it is important that all hot works on your construction site adhere to tested and qualified procedures that are known to all your team members. This includes ensuring that welding machines and other hot work equipment are only used by individuals who are trained in their operation.

When conducting hot works on your construction site, extra caution is necessary. To effectively prevent accidents, you should regularly check if your fire precautions are in place.

7. Minimize potential fire hazards

To protect your construction site from avoidable fires, you should be aware of potential fire risks. These may include not only your equipment, such as welding machines, but also

  • Carelessly discarded cigarette butts
  • Heaters used for warming in cold weather
  • Construction site lights, whose heat near flammable materials can pose a fire hazard.

With simple measures, you can significantly reduce the risk of these potential fire hazards on your construction site. Learn more about this in our next blog article.

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