inspector checking fire extinguishers

Tips for Fire Prevention and Protection on Construction Sites

Here’s What You Need to Know to Protect Your Workers

There are many fire protection and prevention factors to be aware of in any workplace, especially on construction sites.  Construction sites contain a variety of flammable and combustible materials, as well as ignition sources, presenting many opportunities for a fire to start. 

Fire prevention and protection is complex but extremely necessary on all job sites. There are numerous guidelines and regulations that need to be followed to ensure worker safety.  The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires employers to implement fire protection and prevention programs in the workplace.

Fire Prevention and Protection on Construction Sites

These are the major fire prevention and protection considerations employers must consider:

  • Fire Extinguishers – OSHA requires employers to provide only approved, portable fire extinguishers and mount, locate, and identify them so that they are readily accessible to employees without subjecting the employees to possible injury.  
    • Locate a fire extinguisher every 3,000 square feet
    • Place a fire extinguisher on every floor/level adjacent to stairway
    • Make sure the distance to the nearest extinguisher is not more than 100 feet
    • Inspect fire extinguishers regularly
  • No Smoking Policy – Institute a no smoking policy on your jobsites, especially those with wood-frame buildings and sites where flammables and combustibles are stored or in use.
    • Provide a designated smoking area(s)
    • Hang appropriate signage throughout the job site (in multiple languages if necessary)
    • Communicate the no smoking policy to all workers and subcontractors
  • Electrical – Electric currents carried by wiring, switches, plugs and tools generate heat. When used improperly, excessive or uncontrolled heat from electrical currents can start fires.
    • Ensure all temporary and permanent wiring is up to code
    • Do not allow overloading of circuits or daisy-chaining extension cords
    • Inspect all extension and power cords prior to use; discard those cords that are damaged.
    • Avoid splicing cords unless a qualified electrician ensures that it retains its original insulating properties.
  • Temporary Heaters – According to OSHA (1926.154), when implementing a temporary heating device, there are five standards that one must adhere to. 
  • Flammable Liquids – Flammable liquids are very common on jobsites and a number of precautions must be taken to ensure safety.  Workers must be made aware of all the ways to prevent fires from starting because of the presence of these liquids.
    • Minimize the storage of flammables. Only keep those that are necessary for that day’s or week’s work onsite.
    • Store flammables in proper locations and proper containers. Only use OSHA-approved fuel containers.
    • Protect aboveground tanks from mobile equipment.
    • Post No Smoking signs at storage areas.
    • Ensure a fire extinguisher is located within 50 feet of any storage area containing more than 5 gallons/pounds of flammable liquids or gases.
  • Hot Work – Hot work entails riveting, welding, flame cutting or other fire or spark-producing operations. To the extent possible, hot work must be performed in designated locations that are free of fire hazards.
    • Ensure hot work permits are filled out and reviewed prior to hot work taking place.
    • Keep a fire extinguisher close by.
  • Housekeeping – The accumulation of scraps and other debris can become a major hazard if an ignition source, such as a cigarette, spark, or overheated cord, were to come into contact with it. Additionally, in the event of an evacuation, poor housekeeping could have disastrous consequences if employees are not able to exit the building/site.
    • Minimize piles of trash and other combustibles
    • Keep evacuation routes clear of clutter
    • Plan for the regular removal of trash and construction debris.
  • Evacuation Plans – OSHA requires an emergency evacuation plan for job sites.  The elements of the plan must include the means of reporting fires and other emergencies and emergency escape route assignments.  Additionally, employers must follow several requirements.
    • All workers should be trained upon arrival to the job on the evacuation plan
      • Method of communicating evacuations
      • Specific evacuation routes must be communicated
      • Assembly areas in the event of an emergency must be communicated
    • Larger sites should have evacuation maps posted

Understanding Fire Prevention

Fire is the result of the reaction between a source of fuel and oxygen in the air. Fire is a chemical reaction that requires three elements to be present for the reaction to take place and continue.

Heat, fuel, and oxygen must combine in a precise way for a fire to start and continue to burn. These three elements typically are referred to as the “fire triangle.”   Fire prevention requires segregating the three elements of the fire triangle.  If one element of the fire triangle is not present or is removed, a fire will not start or, if already burning, will extinguish.

A major factor in fire prevention is to eliminate

one source of the “fire triangle.”

Employee Training is a Great First Step

OSHA requires that any employee that is expected to use a fire extinguisher be trained on their proper use. This training is required upon initial employment and at least annually thereafter. It is recommended the training session cover how to determine when a fire is too big to handle; what type of extinguisher to use; and the PASS system of early-stage firefighting.

It also is recommended that live fire training be conducted periodically (this level of training is not needed each year). Live training exposes employees to the pressure released from a fire extinguisher when the handle is squeezed and provides hands-on practice extinguishing a fire. Some local fire departments and most fire extinguisher suppliers offer this type of training.

Act now . . . don’t wait to make your site fire safe!

Compliance Consultants, Inc. encourages you to take ALL the necessary prevention and protection measures on your job site.  Fires can cause a lot of damage and injury and are not something to be overlooked or delayed. 

Contact us today to find out what you need to do to provide the safest possible work environment for all of your workers.  [email protected]

Resources:

OSHA Documents

https://www.osha.gov/laws-regs/regulations/standardnumber/1926/1926.150

https://www.osha.gov/fire-safety/standards

OSHA Fact Sheet

https://www.osha.gov/sites/default/files/publications/OSHA3527.pdf

National Safety Council Guidelines

https://www.nsc.org/getmedia/88a61441-0920-4368-ae43-d18d8efcac1f/data-fire-prevention-construction-sites.pdf.aspx

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