Fire kills and injures many people each year. On construction and refurb projects there is a higher risk of fire starting or spreading due to hot-works and incomplete fire breaks.
For fire to start there must be three elements, known as the fire triangle:
- Heat or Ignition – a spark, hot works.
- Fuel – something to burn.
- Oxygen – in the air.
To fight the fire, you remove one or more of the 3 elements above.
- Remove heat by cooling with water.
- Remove fuel or starve the fire, by turning off the gas supply for example.
- Remove the oxygen by smothering the fire with a fire blanket or foam.
Ignition and fuel.
A fire can start by either a spark coming into contact with something flammable, or by heating up an item to ignition temperature at which point it will start to burn.
Ignition can be caused by:
- Naked flames.
- Sparks (from disc cutters etc.).
- Equipment overheating (such as power tools).
- Gas or electric heaters.
- Smoking, matches, cigarettes.
- Overheating lights.
When starting work on premises that you are not familiar with, your employer, or the site agent, should provide a site induction covering the following:
- Escape routes and locations of assembly points.
- How to raise the alarm.
- How to call the emergency services.
- Designated smoking locations.
- When fire alarm tests will be carried out.
- Trained fire marshals.
- How to report fire risks.
Hot works are classified as works that could potentially start a fire by creating sparks, heat, naked flames etc.
When doing hot works, make sure you are aware of the site rules, and if required, obtain a hot works permit. This will tell you:
- Pre-start checks and precautions.
- Preventing sparks, heat and flames from spreading.
- What type of fire extinguisher is needed.
- Rules relating to fire watch after hot works end (someone must check on the site after the hot works are complete to ensure there is not a fire).
- What time work must stop to allow for the fire watch.
Highly flammable liquids and gasses.
These are liquids that can ignite below 32C. Use of these liquids should be strictly controlled and only the minimum amount required should be taken to site each day. These liquids must be kept away from ignition sources, and spillages cleared up immediately.
Some common flammable liquids include:
Liquified Petroleum Gas or LPG must also be handled and used with care. Bottles must be kept upright and stored in a secure, ventilated area.
There are several types of fire extinguishers…
Red – Water extinguishers can be used on solids such as wood, paper and textiles. They must not be used on flammable liquids or electrical equipment.
Blue – Dry powder extinguishers can be used on any type of fire.
Cream – Foam extinguishers can be used on flammable solids and liquids, but not electrical equipment.
Black – CO2 extinguishers can be used on flammable liquids and electrical equipment. They are not suitable for flammable solids or flammable metals. They must not be used in a confined space.
Yellow – Wet chemical extinguishers are suited to cooking oil fires and flammable solids.