Common Fire Hazards for Construction Environments
Construction sites are high risk areas for a number of reasons, many of them obvious. The danger of a potential fire breaking out is definitely one of these, with many construction sites playing host to numerous examples of the three elements required to start a blaze: a source of ignition, a source of oxygen, and a source of fuel.
Fires in these environments can be highly destructive, with damage to materials, delays to construction and risk to life among the consequences. With many occurring each year, it’s important to understand some of the common causes, helping those responsible for safety to avoid fires from breaking out.
While all construction sites contain fire hazards of some form, those deemed most at risk are areas of refurbishment, demolition or reconstruction. This is due to the prevalence of old electrical cabling or dry wood that could be concealed from the view of the workers. Coupled with the likelihood of sparks from construction work, such as soldering or sawing, all the elements required to start a fire are present.
A wide range of combustible fuels are also present on many construction sites, from fibrous insulating materials and adhesives to timber and plastics. LPG (Liquid Petroleum Gas) is a particular danger. This is used as a fuel across the vast majority of construction sites, largely in bitumen heaters and throughout on-site accommodation. Similarly, the fuel used to power any plant equipment or vehicles on site should be taken into account when construction work is taking place nearby.
Although many construction companies now utilise flame retardant materials, there are still certain scaffold or roof coverings that could potentially end up as fuel in a fire. This is a particular hazard, as coverings are usually in place when the site is vacant, meaning that any fire would go unattended for a longer period, causing greater damage.
Careful storage of building materials that may be flammable is one major way in which accidental fires can be avoided on construction sites. Similarly, good housekeeping is an effective preventative measure when it comes to reducing fire hazards on site. Not only are combustible elements kept out of harm’s way, but evacuation routes are also kept clear to ensure that all workers can escape in the event of a blaze.
As with any working premises, construction sites should be fully equipped with the necessary tools to both warn against and to fight fire should one occur. Extinguishers should be matched to the potential types of fire that are most likely to break out in that environment.
Arson is always a major fire risk at any commercial premises, and construction environments are no exception. Security is vital throughout the area, from perimeter fences (which also prevent injury to the public) to cameras and guards to monitor otherwise unattended sites.
Construction sites, by their very nature, are high risk areas. Fire hazards are among many dangers that are present during large scale projects, and should be taken all the more seriously because of this. A mix of stringent caution (keeping flammable materials contained, effective housekeeping) and preventative measures (correct extinguisher types, sufficient security measures) is the best way to avoid what could potentially be a disastrous fire.