Fire safety is normally a major priority for most businesses, but construction sites, in particular, are prone to fire hazards. Flammable liquids, high-rise wooden structures and temporary electrical equipment may be present on site, all of which can pose risks if the correct health and safety measures are not adhered to.

Compliance dictates that it is a site manager’s duty to adequately protect both site workers and the general public from harm, by ensuring that fire and other risks are minimised. A construction site fire can, of course, seriously injure people, but it may also cause a significant financial blow if damage is widespread, resulting in long project delays and budget drainage. As such, it is important to understand how to properly safeguard against a construction site fire.

Here, we discuss the measures you should be taking in order to minimise fire risks.

Risk assessments

Every time you start a new project on a new construction site, a fire risk assessment must be carried out. It is a legal requirement that a suitable and sufficient assessment be conducted by the person responsible for doing so. The fire risk assessment should follow five simple steps, including the identifying of hazards and the people at risk, the evaluation, removal and reduction of risks, planning and training, and finally a review and monitoring stage.

Each time a significant change occurs on the site, which may increase the risk of fire, a new risk assessment should be carried out and plans made accordingly. Ensuring regular fire risk assessments are carried out creates a safer workplace and one which adheres to legal health and safety requirements.

Security measures

Installing site-wide construction site alarms will help to mitigate risks and keep people safe. Such alarms can detect both heat and smoke and are radio-linked, which means they can be monitored 24/7, giving site managers total peace of mind, even out-of-hours.

It is important to only hire an authorised security professional to fit such systems, rather than attempting to do so yourself, since they will have the knowledge and experience to understand the optimal areas within the construction site whereby to install the alarms for the best possible protection.

Other security measures which may be worth thinking about include access control and CCTV systems, both of which can add a greater layer of protection. Access control prevents unauthorised people from gaining entry to the site, whilst CCTV deters any would-be arsonists, as well as providing video evidence in the event of a crime.

 CCTV monitoring also allows viewers to spot the early signs of a fire before it has the chance to cause damage. Likewise, if a fire has already begun, those monitoring are able to alert people on site, allowing them to evacuate and make their way to the designated safety areas.

Control measures

On a construction site, the principal contractor is obliged to draw up a plan which includes arrangements for fire safety and emergency procedures. The plan must outline where the emergency exits are, which should have visible signage and should remain unobstructed at all times. If necessary, emergency lighting should be present.

If a fire takes place, staff on site must know exactly what to do. As such, training is essential in both the prevention of fire risks and the steps to be taken in the event of a fire. If fire-fighting equipment is present on site, staff should be aware of how to correctly use it.

For further information and guidance regarding fire safety in construction, you can download the advice from the Health and Safety Executive.