Given the materials and supplies used in construction, job sites can be prone to fire hazards. Having a plan to prevent and address fires can mitigate devastating property damage or worse outcomes. Any fire, no matter its size, is one fire too many. Here are some fire prevention tips for construction leaders.
Planning is Key to Fire Safety in the Workplace
The key to eliminating fires from starting is to have a solid fire prevention plan in place.
A fire prevention plan must identify and document all potential fire hazards. Depending on the size and scope of the project or facility, the list of potential fire hazards can be very long. However, by having an exhaustive list of potential fire sources, we can create plans and procedures to prevent those fires from occurring.
Undocumented fire hazards, or those that are overlooked, are the most likely to cause incidents. Even small fires, given the right circumstances, can escalate to towering infernos and catastrophic hazards. Make sure to include all heat sources and electrical outlets when identifying potential fire hazards.
Implementing OSHA Fire Protection Procedures
Once all the fire hazards are documented, OSHA/CCOHS fire protection requirements (at a minimum) need to be developed to include proper handling and storage of hazardous materials, making sure that the proper precautions are in place when using them near fire hazards. It’s also important to make sure they aren’t stored near fire hazards. Controls also need to be developed for potential ignition sources, to ensure that they don’t start uncontrolled fires.
Plans also need to include suppression methods for each fire hazard. Different types of fires could require different suppression types. For example, in some situations, using water can be more dangerous, such as using a water hose on an electrical panel fire.
Accounting For Less Obvious Fire Hazards
The plan should also account for other flammable or combustible materials. The products and equipment used in operations might be simple enough to account for, but don’t forget about byproducts and materials that aren’t directly used. For example, many dusts (including wood, plastic and even some metals) are highly combustible in enclosed environments. If your operations create lots of dust, your plan should provide procedures to ensure they don’t combust. Paper, cardboard, and wooden pallets also are combustible materials that can accumulate and create a significant fire hazard.
Employee Training & Awareness
Ensure your fire safety plan clearly communicates OSHA/CCOHS guidelines to all employees. Even the best fire prevention plan won’t be effective if only one person on the jobsite understands it, while many others work near fire hazards. Post signs that warn employees of the hazards and where the fire extinguishers and other suppression methods are located.
All of this needs to be documented in a written fire prevention plan and must be available for employees to review. They should also be trained on the fire prevention plan, so that they understand the procedures, and even clue them into why the procedures are in place. The more they know and understand how the procedures help keep them safe, the more likely they are to buy into and follow the procedures.
FCA Fire Prevention Resources
- FCA Fire Prevention Program (a component of the FCA Safety Manual. Request your company’s safety manual to access the full document if your company has not yet done so)
- FCA Toolbox Talk – Fire Prevention – Fire Extinguishers: English | Spanish
- 2023 FCA Safety Call – Fire Prevention (duration – 51:54)
- FCA Safety Call Excerpt – Selecting a Fire Extinguisher (duration – 10:38)
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