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Construction Fire and Safety

The following information is based on HSE leaflet 51 'construction fire safety'.

As you read this, there is probably a fire on a construction site somewhere in the UK, there are around 11 such fires every day. Not only can people be killed or injured, but fires can also be financially devastating to those involved.

Most construction site fires have simple causes and can be dealt with by simple precautions.  The following are particularly important:

Store LPG cylinders outside insecure, well ventilated areas;
Store flammable materials such as solvents and adhesives in lockable steel containers;
Ensure LPG cylinders are turned off when not in use especially when the site is left;
Insurer LPG equipment and fittings are properly maintained, and paid close attention to hoses and fittings;

Hot Work
Ensure hot work such as welding or cutting is tightly controlled; consider a permit to work system;
Make sure fire extinguishers to hand, and are in a serviceable condition;
Check areas around and under where hot work has been carried out for smouldering an hour after work is finished;
Do not leave tar boilers unattended;

Keep the site tidy and make sure rubbish is clear the way promptly and regularly;
Avoid unnecessary stockpiling of combustible materials such as polystyrene and store what is necessary away from ignition sources;
Bear in mind that explosive or flammable atmospheres can develop when solvents or adhesives are used in enclosed areas;
Never used petrol or similar accelerants to start or encourage fires;
Ensure smoking is confined to designated areas, and provide non-combustible ashtrays;
On larger high-risk sites, carry out fire drills;
On smaller sites, ensure everyone knows what to do in case of fire;
Make regular checks to ensure that fire precautions are in place;
Display fire action notices locations such as site entrances, and canteen areas.

Fire alarm
An appropriate method of raising an alarm of fire should be provided, in some cases a simple shout of fire may be sufficient, but often manual bells or battery-operated site alarms are necessary (we have a range of such equipment). Fire alarms should be tested at least once a week.

If a fire breaks out the alarm should be raised by the person who discovers it, and everyone on-site should immediately proceed to a designated assembly point.

Means of Escape
The main principle is that there should always be an alternative escape route, which will no doubt be the case in the finished building.  Whilst the building is under construction however, it is easy to forget that fires can trap people, and close attention should be paid to ensuring that this does not happen.

Fire fighting equipment
The equipment needed depends on the risk of fire occurring and the type of materials stored and used. it can range from single extinguisher on small low risk sites to complex fixed installations on large and high-risk sites.  The type of equipment provided should be identified by carrying out a risk assessment.
Whatever equipment is needed in sure that:
Fire equipment is located close to work areas, and is easily accessible;
The correct extinguishers are chosen;
Extinguishers are serviced and in good working order;
All personnel are trained in basic fire fighting.

Emergency plans
The purpose of an emergency plan is to ensure that everyone reaches safety if there is a fire.  Small and low-risk sites only require very simple plans, but higher risk sites will need more careful and detailed consideration. An emergency plan should:
The prepared prior to work commencing;
Be kept up to date and appropriate for the work in hand;
Make clear who does what during a fire;
Where CDM applies, be incorporated in the construction phase health and safety plan;


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