A fire prevention plan is essential in every home, building, and workplace, and that includes construction sites. These job sites are especially vulnerable to fire, not only from the temporary electrical wiring and use of spark-producing power tools but also because the fire prevention steps that typically protect buildings — like sprinkler systems and firewalls — aren’t yet in place.
Unprotected construction spaces are also at risk of vandalism, and a fire can be devastating with so many flammable building materials and potentially explosive chemicals on site. There were at least seven large construction fires in the United States in 2017 alone, with two in Massachusetts resulting in combined damages totaling more than $140 million.
A fire is a serious risk to your employees and contractors during the workday, but your investment is still at risk during non-working hours when a fire could cause millions in damages and lost materials. A construction fire prevention and protection plan will help you protect your crew, your materials, and your investment. Here’s everything you need to know about creating one.
How to Minimize Fire Hazards on Your Construction Site
Prevention starts by limiting your risk. Identify and reduce hazards to stop a fire breaking out in the first place with these tips:
1. Make a plan for waste
Don’t let scrap materials and garbage pile up throughout the site. Have a designated area where you can gather waste products, and make a plan for regular removal. Never burn this waste to dispose of it, as those fires can quickly get out of control.
2. Avoid smoking.
You may want to have a smoke-free construction site, as it eliminates a fire risk and provides a healthier workplace for all employees. If that is not an option, designate specific areas for smoking with careful disposal of cigarette butts.
3. Place lights and heaters carefully.
Keep flammable materials away from lights and heaters. Ensure this equipment is set up properly so it doesn’t fall over, and don’t leave your heaters running unattended.
4. Stay attentive with hot works.
Welding, grinding, cutting, and other operations that produce heat or sparks should be conducted by trained professionals who follow all safety precautions. Remove flammable materials from the area or cover them with a heat-proof blanket. Stop all hot work an hour before the end of the day so the machines can properly cool and you can monitor for fire until you leave.
5. Be careful with electrics.
A professional electrician should install any electrical system to avoid improper acts that can create opportunities for sparks or melted wire casings. Stay diligent about inspecting cords and equipment, too, especially on items that are regularly transported and subject to repeated wear and tear.
6. Keep fire extinguishers on hand.
This doesn’t do anything in terms of prevention, but it can prevent small fires from getting out of control. Make sure the entire crew knows where they are and how to use them. It’s important to ensure your construction site follows fire codes and regulations. That may include national standards like NFPA 5000, or you may have specific state or local guidelines. Adhering to these safety guidelines will help you keep your project from going up in flames.
Take Safety Measures for Fire Detection
Those tips are helpful when the crew is on the job, but there are many hours in the day when your site is unattended. What if a fire breaks out then? No one will be harmed, thankfully, but the fire could still cause a great deal of damage if it burns undetected for too long.
There are many ways to monitor your site with tools that are helpful both during and after working hours, and your construction site safety plan should include one or more of them:
- Smoke and Heat Detectors
You might think a smoke detector is enough, but heat detectors may be useful in certain situations, like dusty environments or chemical storage areas.
- Fire Alarms
Choose an easy-to-install alarm with a long battery life that is built to industry standards to withstand unpredictable, often harsh outdoor environments. A direct communication alarm will automatically contact the fire department.
- Surveillance Cameras and Professional Monitoring
An around-the-clock professional monitor can spot a small fire and alert the authorities before it engulfs your entire job site. Camera monitoring will also help you catch vandals — or deter them in the first place — who may intentionally start a fire.
Today’s advanced emergency alert systems offer different levels of alarm that allow you to validate a risk before evacuating your site, check or test your alarms from your smartphone, and request medical assistance. Fast notice and rapid response can save your project — and lives.
What to Do If Your Crew Notices a Fire
Your construction site fire safety setup should include an emergency response plan. This starts with safety equipment, which includes detectors and monitoring equipment, as well as personal protective equipment (PPE) and on-site extinguishers. There are three primary types:
- Water (Class A)
For fires involving wood, cloth, paper, and various plastics
- CO2 (Class B)
For fires involving gas, oil, and certain paints, solvents, and other flammable liquids
- Dry Chemical (Class C)
For fires involving wiring, computers, fuse boxes, and other electrical equipment
There are multi-purpose extinguishers that can be used on A, B, or C fires, as well as Class D extinguishers (combustible metals, powders, etc.) and Class K (for kitchen fires). A few additional notes:
- You should always call the fire department immediately, in case the fire extinguisher isn’t enough to stop the blaze.
- Your construction site safety plan should include evacuation procedures.
- Identify a meetup zone where everyone can gather after evacuating to get a headcount.
- Practice this emergency response occasionally to ensure everyone knows what to do.
Your worksite fire prevention plan really has two parts: prevention and response. Take all the steps you can to avoid having a fire in the first place, but ensure your entire crew knows what to do in that emergency. If around-the-clock site monitoring is part of your fire safety strategy, contact Mobile Video Guard today to speak with a surveillance expert about your construction site fire prevention plan and how we can help.