How to deal with fire hazards at your construction site

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How to deal with fire hazards at your construction site

The devastating impact a fire can have on a construction site was not only demonstrated by the fire at Notre Dame in 2019 but also by the recent fire at the old Copenhagen Stock Exchange exactly five years later. These two cases are yet another demonstration of the importance of effective fire safety measures on construction sites. Because fire risks are hidden on almost every construction site, such as

  • Electrical faults, such as short circuits
  • Hot work equipment
  • Human error, such as discarded cigarette butts
  • Temporary construction site lights or portable heaters placed too close to flammable materials

Of course, there will be some fire hazards on your construction site that you cannot completely avoid. However, it is important to identify these potential fire hazards and take proactive steps to minimize the risk of a fire breaking out. Here we look at the most common fire hazards on construction sites and tell you how you can protect your site in an effective way.

Electrical faults

Short circuits and other electrical faults are among the most common causes of fires on construction sites. This is why it is essential to ensure that all installations are carried out by a qualified electrician. To quickly identify potentially dangerous faults, all electrical installations must be tested, inspected, and commissioned before use and at appropriate intervals. Also check daily that there are no unnecessary dangling or tangled cables.

Equipment for hot works

Hot work includes all processes involving the generation of heat by naked flame, electric arc, sparks, and the use of bitumen kettles or grinding.

For example, welding machines produce flying sparks and smoldering materials that can lead to fires and even explosions. Therefore, it is crucial that all hot works on your construction site adhere to tested and qualified procedures known to all team members. This includes ensuring that welding machines and other hot work equipment are operated only by trained individuals as well as checking that your fire precautions are in place on a regular basis.

Human errors such as unauthorised smoking

An uncontrollable fire can start from something as simple as a carelessly discarded cigarette butt. To avoid this, it is important that you carefully control smoking on your construction site and restrict it to specific areas away from flammable materials. Ashes and cigarette butts should also be disposed of carefully in the designated smoking areas.

Temporary construction lights and lamps

Under challenging lighting conditions, such as in winter or when working inside tanks or behind construction coverings, temporary lamps or special task lightings are indispensable. However, since these lamps generate heat and can become a fire hazard, especially near flammable materials, special caution is necessary.

To minimize the risk of a fire caused by construction lights, they should not only be placed away from flammable materials but also be secured in their locations. This prevents temporary lamps from accidentally being moved too close to flammable materials.

Additionally, choosing the right lamps for your construction site can reduce the fire risk in advance. For example, you should avoid using halogen and halide lamps because of their high operating temperatures.

It’s also advisable that you provide lamp holders to ensure that bulbs of different operating voltages cannot be interchanged and that you cap those that are not fitted with a bulb. Check your lighting units regularly and replace broken units immediately.

Portable heaters

Especially in cold weather, portable heaters are a welcome way to keep warm and make working outside a little more comfortable. However, they pose a safety risk that should not be underestimated.

That’s why portable heaters should be considered in the same category as hot work and an assessment should be made of the suitability of the heater and its location.

Effective fire prevention measures on your construction site at a glance

To summarise, there are five simple rules for dealing with potential fire risks on your construction site:

  1. Electrical installations should only be carried out by professionals and should also be regularly tested, inspected, and replaced if necessary.
  2. Fixed rules should be established for performing hot works such as welding, which are known to and strictly followed by all involved.
  3. Smoking should only be permitted in designated areas, away from flammable materials.
  4. Construction lights should be set up away from flammable materials and secured against being moved.
  5. Portable heaters should be used under regulated conditions similar to hot works.

Check out our other blog posts on fire safety on construction sites for more information, tips and best practice.

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