March is a Fire Prevention Month!

For this reason, fire prevention has to be a top priority when planning and managing construction work. Because of a range of variables, construction sites are at amplified fire risk. The presence of materials for fuel waste, solvents, hot work processes, and electrical systems that are not finished is also a greater risk of destruction, infringement, and malicious acts. 

There are many fires on construction sites and in buildings undergoing renovation every year; people are injured or killed, the property is lost, including irreplaceable heritage buildings, and the industry experiences damage and unforeseen costs from which many can never recover. The risk of fire can be defined as the result of the possibility of a fire occurring in a given process or procedure and the effect or nature of the damage to be expected in the event of a fire. 

The distinction between a 'danger' and a 'risk' should also be understood by anyone familiar with risk assessment. A hazard is described as anything with the potential for injury and/or damage from fire and the presence of uncontrolled fire hazards affects the risk or the probability of having a fire, rather than the effects of fire. Fire danger management is found in the basic 'Fire Triangle' in its simplest words, and this refers to the fuel and combustion hazards that can be found on building sites, and removing one of the sides of the triangle can avoid starting and enduring fire. 

Of course, on a construction site, we can only literally operate on the fuel and combustion hazards, so oxygen reduction is not considered. Danger management is therefore key to fire risk control and the following article will describe the hazards present on construction sites, control measures implemented on-site, and comment on the probability of the risks posed by the hazards.

The Republic Act No. 9514 also known as the Fire Code of the Philippines of 2008, defines duties in relation to fire safety and identifies factors that should be taken into account in the implementation of fire safety arrangements with regard to construction sites. While the law has changed in recent years, the standards for fire risk assessment and controls and the number of practical measures have not changed in practice.

There are several possible threats to the construction site that can cause a fire. Below is a list of the tips and advice that you can do to avoid fire in a construction site.

Fire Risk Assessment

A fire risk assessment is a study of a structure to evaluate its fire risk and recommendations to make the structure safer. Changes in a building's architecture, how it's used, or the types of people who use or live there can all have an effect on your fire safety plans. As a consequence, if any of these incidents have happened, it's important to perform a review of the fire risk assessment. 

You can start a fire risk assessment using these following steps:

  • Determine the potential for a burn.
  • Determine who is at risk.
  • Assess, eliminate, or mitigate the threats.
  • Make a list of your results, develop an emergency plan, and train your staff.
  • Regularly review and refine your risk assessment.

You will recognize most of the hazards that may cause a fire on your construction site by conducting a risk assessment, which can help you prevent harm and injury from fire and ensure fire safety in construction.

Less Ignition Sources

There are several types of ignition sources that can produce fire most especially in construction sites. The ignition sources that could start a fire are one of the first things you can look for. On a building site, the following are the key sources of ignition:

  • Surfaces that are extremely hot
  • Hot gases and fires
  • Sparks created mechanically
  • Electrical apparatus
  • Currents that come and go
  • Electricity that is static
  • A bolt of lightning hits
  • Waves of electromagnetic radiation
  • Radiation of light
  • Ultrasound is a system that uses sound waves to
  • Reactions of chemicals
  • Individuals (indirectly)

Lessen Fuel Sources

You may have identified some fuel sources when looking out for the ignition sources and as mentioned earlier it is important that these two sources are stored/ carried out away from each other to prevent a fire on the construction site.

Fuel sources can be anything from timber, flammable liquids, scaffolding sheeting to rubbish to dispose of.

If you need to keep these fuel sources to construct the house, keep them a safe distance away from the ignition sources to reduce the chance of a fire on the job site.

Fire Protection in the Building

By incorporating fire protection into the structure as early as possible and maintaining it throughout the construction process, it will be able to assist in the event of a fire and promote fire safety in construction.

Fire Alarms 

Through installing fire alarm systems, you will greatly minimize the amount of damage that a fire will do to people. As simple as it sounds, this would immediately alert those on site that they must evacuate. To ensure that everybody is aware, you can test the alarm systems on a weekly basis to ensure that they function properly in the event of a fire.

Fire-fighting Equipment

Regardless of the size of the building site, it is important to have any fire fighting equipment on hand, whether it is fire extinguishers, sprinklers, or both. With this in mind, it's important to keep them maintained and serviced on a regular basis to ensure that they function properly if you do need them and that they help you contain the fire as much as possible before the fire department arrives.

It's important to note that while you can use all of these tips to avoid fires on construction sites, you should remain calm and evacuate the site as soon as possible if one does occur.

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