Fire protection on construction sites: Six top tips to protect people and assets

Fires on building sites are not uncommon. In England, it is estimated that around 500 fires per year are reported to the emergency services. A fire within construction sites presents a real and present danger to valuable assets and people’s lives.

Matt Trigwell, Sales Director at Bull Products has identified 6 top tips for protecting a construction site from a fire.

Protect the site from unauthorised access

The Home Office estimates that 38% of fires are set deliberately. This means that controlling access to building sites to prevent vandals and arsonists is critical. Fencing and hoardings can play a particularly important role, and effective access control systems like SmartGate are critical.

Develop a fire safety strategy

At the company level or the site level, a fire safety strategy should be developed.   The British Standards Institution (document PAS911) says a fire safety strategy is “an all-encompassing document designed to overview how fire can impact on a building and a business”.

A comprehensive fire safety strategy should include:

  • How are warnings are triggered and communicated
  • Means of escape in the event of a fire
  • Likely pathways that a fire may spread, internally and externally
  • Access and facilities for the fire brigade and other emergency services
  • Fire safety procedures
    For a fire to start, it needs three elements: a source of ignition (heat), fuel and oxygen. Fire prevention procedures are created to prevent these three elements from coming together. Clearly, oxygen is prevalent in the air we breathe, so that is hard to control. But keeping heat and fuel apart is crucial. Some important methods to reduce ignition risks include:
    • Conduct all hot works in a controlled, designated area.
    • Implement a safe smoking policy.
    • Ensure all electrical and mechanical equipment is installed, used, maintained and inspected properly.

The key ways to reduce or remove sources of fuel include:

  • Substitute flammable materials with non-flammable or less-flammable materials.
  • Reduce the amount of on-site storage of flammable materials by using just-in-time delivery.
  • Do  not  keep  flammable  solids,  liquids  and  gases  together.
  • Have a robust waste management strategy

    Fire safety training
    Training site workers in fire safety is critical. This includes your own workforce, contractors and visitors to the site. Training staff to identify risks and take action to eliminate or reduce risk is vital. All site workers and visitors should also know what to do in the event of a fire.   Training should be delivered by a fire safety expert. It is not uncommon for construction workers to have English as a second language, so it is vital that fire safety instruction is well communicated to a multinational workforce.

    Fire detection and alarms
    Fires can be detected in three ways: Smoke, heat and humans.  Smoke and heat from a fire can be automatically identified using detectors embedded within the fire alarm system.  The Cygnus wireless fire alarm system was developed specifically to detect fires within building sites and is trusted by most leading contractors to protect their assets and people.

    Human detection is also important. This means it is vital to have an alarm system that also has a manual call point to trigger the alarm. The Cygnus alarm system has various call point options, and because they are wireless they can be easily deployed.

    Fire fighting
    If a fire breaks out, human safety is paramount, so evacuating to a safe place is the main priority. Some small fires can be tackled by those workers who are trained in the correct use of fire extinguishers.   This means proper training, again, is vital, as different types of fire (chemical, electrical etc) require different types of extinguishers.    Ensuring extinguishers are easily accessible and with clear signage is a crucial aspect of fire safety within construction sites.

To find out more, contact the team on 01432 806806, or visit bullproducts.co.uk/products/fire-safety/