Fires at Construction Sites Spotlight on Safety

construction site firesFires at Construction Sites

Contributor: Daryl Bessa, President at F.E. Moran Special Hazard Systems
Writer: Sarah Block, Marketing Director at The Moran Group

Every 20 seconds a fire department is called to a fire in the United States. Construction sites have an abundance of fire hazards that make fires a very real risk. Property loss is estimated at $9.8 billion a year, and the US Fire Administration believes that construction site fires have an even bigger loss. With a lack of detection, protection, and even more hazards - fires can devastate a construction site.

Why do fires start at construction sites?

Workplace fires start for a variety of reasons: electricity, chemicals, flammable liquids, compressed gases, poor housekeeping, welding, cutting, and smoking.

Welding and cutting are major hazards that can cause a fire at a construction site. There are two types of welding - gas and electric. Anyone welding or cutting should follow basic safety protocols:
• Wear personal protective equipment.
• Inspect the area and make sure any flammable or combustible materials are removed from the area by at least 35 feet.
• Stay alert of the spark of a fire
• Keep a fire extinguisher close with a fire watcher

Another major offender of fires at construction sites is compressed gas.

Acetylene and propane provide fire and explosion hazards. Oxygen doesn't burn by itself, but it does fuel fire. Follow these safety precautions to avoid compressed gas fires:
• Do not mix gases in a cylinder
• Do not refill cylinders
• Do not try and refill a cylinder
• Do not smoke near compressed gas
• Learn the color code on compressed gas: red = flammable, green = non-flammable, white = poison, and yellow = oxidizer. However, keep in mind that non-flammable gases aren't harmless. They can cause asphyxiation or suffocation.

How do I prevent fires from starting?

Prevent fires by following the precautions stated earlier. Additional prevention strategies are
• Do not smoke when no smoking signs are present
• Practice safe storage with flammable liquids
• Store chemicals based on manufacturer's recommendations
• Dispose of combustible materials properly
• Store oily rags in approved containers and dispose of properly

Prevent fires at construction sites by practicing safe working habits. Fires can be easily avoided if all proper precautions are taking place. If a fire were to start, make sure your site is ready to fight it. Proper fire extinguishers need to be mounted in areas with fire hazards. The extinguishers should all be properly inspected and tested to ensure they are fully charged if needed. Employees should also be informed of emergency procedures and be aware of at least two exits out of a work site.

Follow proper safety habits to avoid an accidental fire at construction sites.


Resource Center
News and Publications