Construction sites are well known to be hazardous environments, which means that there are numerous health and safety considerations for all workers. Among the machinery, materials and working height issues, it can sometimes be easy to forget that fire is still a very significant risk, especially if the building’s fire safety measures have not yet been installed. In this article, we’re going to take a look at the main points to note when it comes to fire safety on construction sites.
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 is the piece of legislation that deals with fire safety on construction sites, and it must be fully understood by anyone responsible for site safety. Under law, there must always be a responsible person; usually the principal contractor or similar. Virtual College offers online fire safety training for those looking for a good understanding of the subject, as part of our range of construction courses.
You need to be aware of four main areas:
The risk assessment should be carried out in advance of anyone working at the site, and it may need to be regularly updated if elements of the site change. This a very important element of fire safety that seeks to determine what might cause a fire in a particular location, and how severe that situation would be. This assessment informs all other parts of the fire safety procedure, which means it is essential to do this comprehensively. Things that should be considered include hazardous substances, hazardous activities, vulnerable people, and any training required. Ensure you fully understand all requirements before this is completed.
Means of escape is a critical part of any fire plan. In buildings, it is a legal requirement to have appropriate signage directing people to an assembly point in the event of a fire, and there must be clear paths out of the building. This is more difficult on construction sites, but is still a major consideration. Using the risks identified in the risk assessment, those responsible for fire safety will need to establish the safest and quickest ways off the site, or to a safe area of the site, in the event of a fire. As part of this, there should also be a designated assembly point, which allows registration to take place, ensuring that everyone is accounted for.
As part of ensuring that everyone is able to evacuate safely, there needs to be a method in place for giving warning that a fire has broken out in a section of the construction site. Depending on the stage of construction, there may not be infrastructure for a comprehensive fire alarm system. As a result, additional measures will need to be implemented. There are various options that construction sites use, but in all cases they will need to be loud and distinctive so that anyone on site can hear them. Everyone must also know in advance the meaning of the sound. Whistles, klaxons, air horns and other equipment are frequently used. They need to be readily available for anyone to use if a fire is spotted. There should also be a process for contacting the emergency services.
Finally, there is the consideration of fighting the fire. This is not something that should be attempted in all situations. Again, the risk assessment is critical here, because this is what will determine any fire-fighting measures taken. There are many different types of fire extinguisher, each one intended for specific types of fires. Only by understanding the specific hazards that your site poses can you decide which extinguishers are required.