When you walk into a building—a restaurant, a school, a store, a doctor’s office—you likely assume proper fire protection protocols have been put in place to protect you. That assumption would be correct. In order for these spaces to be approved for occupancy, they need to pass strict building, fire and electrical inspections. But what fire protective measures were in place during the construction process?
A construction site presents a significant risk for a damaging fire. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), fires that occurred in structures under construction between 2013 – 2017 caused an average of four civilian deaths per year, 49 injuries, and $304 million in direct property damage. For those undergoing major renovations, the civilian death toll rose to eight, with 52 injuries and $104 million in direct property damage.1
The good news is while construction site fires often prove deadly and financially devastating, the vast majority can be avoided. By understanding the most common causes of fire and taking precautionary measures against them, you will drastically reduce the risk of fire at your job site.
Common job-site fire hazards and how to avoid them:
- Improper training or lack of safety procedures: Without adequate training or clearly defined fire safety protocols in place, a small fire can get out of control quickly and spread beyond containment. A fire protection plan that includes formal worker training is vital to creating a safe job site. By teaching workers how to recognize a fire hazard, conduct fire safety risk assessments, prevent fires, and respond if one occurs—and implementing a plan that’s followed throughout the construction project—you’ll ensure that everyone at your workplace is prepared in case of a fire-related emergency.
- Faulty electrical systems: Between overloaded circuits, damaged extension cords, defective appliances, improper grounding, wet conditions, and more, it doesn’t take much for the electrical wiring at a construction site to spark a flame. To avoid this all-too-common hazard, make sure your temporary electrical service is installed in accordance with National Electric Code standards and maintained and regularly inspected by your electrical contractor.
- Construction debris: Your growing mound of debris makes for great kindling. What better fuel for a raging fire than dry wood, old insulation, and oily rags? Sure, it’s easy to toss the waste into a pile to clean up another time—but at what cost? Once a fire ignites, the kindling will be engulfed within minutes. As a best practice, be sure to discard the debris and waste into dumpsters as you go. Don’t let it accumulate.
- Cutting, welding, and other hot work: Sparks from cutting, welding, burning, and grinding are the most common ignition source of construction-site fires. According to NFPA, fire departments across the U.S. respond to an average of 4,580 structure fires involving hot work per year.2
The best way to avoid fire caused by hot work is to have a fire safety manager on site to supervise all hot work. And, of course, have fire extinguishers with a fire suppressant agent accessible at all times.
- Smoking: Smoking is one of the most dangerous activities at a construction site, particularly if cigarette butts are haphazardly tossed aside. Short of prohibiting smoking anywhere on the job site, consider designating approved smoking areas and require the proper disposal of butts. Be sure to post signs that clearly designate smoking and non-smoking areas.
- Lack of fire protection: Most construction sites don’t have working sprinkler systems or hard-wired smoke detectors in place—at least, not until the job is done. Having several easily accessible fire extinguishers with a fire suppressant agent dispersed throughout the site is essential. Beyond that, know where the closest fire hydrants are and activate the automatic sprinklers when appropriate.
Protect your job site
Fires can occur during any construction project. Being prepared is your best form of defense. At Firefreeze, we offer a range of products that not only extinguish fires quickly but do so without harming the environment or the people using them. Our proprietary Cold Fire extinguishing agent cools 21 times faster than water and works to remove heat and the fuel sources from the fire tetrahedron, preventing re-ignition. Cold Fire is certified to extinguish Class A & B fires and also works to extinguish Class D and K fires.
We also offer Fire Block, an environmentally friendly fire retardant that acts as a thermal insulation barrier to prevent dangerous flames from spreading. Use Fire Block on uniforms and other class A materials to lessen the likelihood of those flammable materials catching fire.
For more information about construction site fires or to learn more about our life-saving products, contact us here.