Fire safety is a top concern in the construction industry. Buildings in all stages of construction are more susceptible to fire, and the effects can be more damaging compared to those on a completed structure. Workers may have combustible chemicals on hand, and wind allows fire to spread through a site. In addition, some firms have not finished installing adequate fire protection equipment. Fires are a major cause of workplace fatalities, so construction companies need to take the proper precautions to protect their employees.
Common Causes of Fires and What You Can Do
On construction sites, fires may start because of anything from a cut gas line to arson. While fires are usually set unintentionally, they are often difficult to stop. Renovations on older homes present a higher risk for fires because these buildings have studs that start in the basement and go up to the top. If a fire starts in the basement, it will easily reach the top of the structure in little time. Current building standards have evolved to include fire stoppers between floors and gaps around electrical and plumbing to prevent this type of spread.
Another building element commonly used in the past was hot sourced heating and tar, which was risky when employees smoked on the site. Some states have banned smoking on site to improve fire safety. Roofing has changed to be performed with a nail gun, but workers still need to be aware of their surroundings and flammable materials, especially when working on a renovation.
Although fire protection systems are more common, firms need to design them with the different stages of building in mind. For example, effective protection may be different at the beginning and end of the project.
How to Reduce Risks of Fires on Construction Sites
Employers must ensure they adhere to standards laid out by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. In addition, OSHA requires employers to report workplace hazards or injuries. Being more aware of hazards reduces risks. Construction firms need to inspect the work site as a project progresses to maintain safety standards.
If employees work with combustible materials, sites need to have sufficient fire extinguishers on hand in case a fire breaks out. Construction firms must have proper storage for combustible liquids. Employers also need to ensure they account for fire exits. If more than one fire exit leads to the same small walkway, this may not be sufficient for all the workers on a site.
Keeping the site clear of waste creates less chances for fires to start. External trash chutes prevent waste from cluttering the interior of the site. Any internal trash chutes should be kept clear of combustible materials to decrease risk.
Better fire safety starts with enhanced employee training. All workers need to be aware of their role in reducing fire risks. Educate employees on what to do in the event of a fire and the location of all fire extinguishers and emergency exits. Regular training improves safety on the site and reduces controllable hazards.