Preventing Fires at Construction Sites
Author: Larry Brassard, Griffin Protective Services
Preventing fires at construction sites is crucial for the safety of workers, communities, and the protection of valuable assets. Several high-profile fires in Ontario this year highlight the need for proper preventive measures to be put in place. Fire prevention measures can be implemented by the passage of local by-laws or stipulated in certain agreements such as subdivision agreements with developers long before construction begins. These provisions can include:
1. Mandatory Site Inspection and Risk Assessments:
- Conduct regular site inspections to identify potential fire hazards.
- Perform a comprehensive risk assessment to evaluate the specific fire risks associated with the construction project.
2. Debris Management:
- Maintain the construction site clean and free of debris, especially combustible materials. Remove construction debris frequently.
- Institute “no open burning” and “no smoking” provisions at the site.
3. Proper Storage of Flammable Liquids and Gases (including Propane):
- Store flammable materials in designated areas away from ignition sources and heat-producing equipment.
- Use proper containers and ensure that these materials are kept by safety regulations.
4. Firebreaks and Separation:
- Create firebreaks by clearing vegetation and other flammable materials around the construction site.
- Establish safe separation distances between different work areas and between the construction site and neighboring properties. Establish “open lot” provisions at reasonable special intervals.
5. Equipment Maintenance:
- Regularly inspect and maintain construction equipment to prevent mechanical failures that could lead to sparks or overheating.
- Ensure that all equipment is turned off when not in use.
6. Fire Extinguishers and Emergency Equipment:
- Install fire extinguishers at strategic locations across the construction site.
- Ensure that workers are trained in the proper use of fire extinguishers and other emergency equipment.
7. Emergency Response Plan:
- Develop and communicate a comprehensive emergency response plan for ALL TRADES that includes procedures for evacuating the site and calling 9-1-1 in the event of a fire.
- Conduct regular fire drills to ensure that all workers are familiar with emergency procedures.
8. Training and Awareness:
- Provide fire safety training for all construction site workers, including awareness of fire hazards and proper safety practices.
- Display clear signage indicating fire escape routes and the location of firefighting equipment.
9. Hot Work Permits:
- Implement a hot work permit system for activities such as welding or cutting, ensuring that proper precautions are taken during these high-risk operations.
10. Fire-resistant Construction Materials:
- Use fire-resistant building materials whenever possible, especially in areas prone to fire hazards.
- Consider fire-resistant coatings for structures.
11. Supervision and Security:
- Ensure that the construction site is adequately supervised to monitor for unsafe practices or potential fire risks.
- Implement security measures to prevent unauthorized access, which can reduce the risk of arson.
12. Communication and Coordination:
- Foster effective communication among workers, contractors, and emergency services to ensure a coordinated response in case of a fire.
Also, by mandating a minimum of “first coat” provisions for road surfacing, and the commissioning of water servicing including fire hydrants before the use of combustible construction materials on site, developers can help local fire services attain some strategic advantage in case a fire DOES occur.
By implementing these measures, construction sites can significantly reduce the risk of fires and enhance overall safety. Regular training, ongoing vigilance, and adherence to safety protocols are essential components of a successful fire prevention strategy.
Griffin Protective Services