Fire safety planning is important for any workplace, particularly so for construction sites. Construction sites are full of fuel sources, large-scale electrical equipment, and complex machinery that could all easily spark a fire. A significant fire has the potential to cause serious damage to not only the building site itself, but also nearby businesses and homes as well.
The construction industry is also usually one of the largest employers in many geographies – with millions of people working as builders, contractors, sub-contractors, architects, etc. at any given time. This means that there are many more construction workers on site than in other industries. So there are many more potential hazards for fires to start – and spread quickly through your construction site(s) if they do occur.
What is fire safety planning?
Fire safety planning is a process that involves identifying the risk of fire and how to mitigate it. The Fire Protection Association Australia (FPA) defines this as “the development and implementation of a written fire emergency plan”. It should be reviewed regularly, with updates added as necessary, so that all construction workers are aware of what to do in the event of an emergency.
This process is legally required for all businesses as part of their responsibilities under workplace health and safety legislation.
Fire risk assessments are a legal requirement in the construction industry and should be carried out by a competent person. They should be undertaken at least annually, or more frequently if there is a particular need to do so.
The fire safety planning process involves the creation of an ongoing and up-to-date action plan that will enable you to keep your site safe from fire risks throughout all stages of your construction project. The main areas which require attention when carrying out this process include:
- Fire detection systems
- Emergency escape routes for employees and visitors
- Portable extinguishers
- Make sure you have a fire safety plan.
- Train your staff on the correct use of fire extinguishers and the importance of evacuation procedures.
- Test your fire alarms regularly to ensure they are in good working order.
- Test all of your fire extinguishers once every six months, or at least twice a year if you’re using them regularly.
Technology in construction fire safety planning
Technology has made it easier than ever before to keep track of your fire safety equipment, monitor your fire safety equipment, and train staff on how to use the equipment. For example, when using digital fire safety planning, can use an app to locate all your extinguishers, record their condition and have an on-hand record of who last serviced them. This can then be shared with other team members so that everyone knows exactly what equipment is in their area. You can also check for any malfunctions or maintenance issues using the app – if there’s something wrong with one of your extinguishers or smoke detectors, this will show up immediately on screen so you know exactly where it needs attention as soon as possible.
When it comes to managing the process of fire risk assessments and safety planning, fire safety software can play an important role in reducing the risk of fire on construction sites. It can help you to identify and manage fire risks, as well as ensure that you are following correct procedures. This is particularly useful if you haven’t got sufficient time or resources available to carry out an effective risk assessment yourself.
Fire safety software platforms like PlanRadar allow you to incorporate construction fire safety procedures at your sites. To learn more about how PlanRadar can help you with your fire risk assessments and planning, you can try the app for free or contact us here.
Aspects of fire safety planning
There are several aspects of fire safety planning that construction sites must consider to remain compliant with the law. Here we have outlined what sites should include in their fire safety plans:
- Fire risk assessments
- Fire drills and testing of equipment
- Fire safety plan
- Fire safety awareness training
1. Fire risk assessments
Fire risk assessments are a legal requirement for all construction sites, and are one of the most important fire safety measures you can take. A fire risk assessment helps identify any potential fire hazards and the risks they pose. It’s also used to identify what might cause a fire, how it could spread, and how it can be controlled. The person carrying out the assessment must have sufficient knowledge of building design and construction techniques to accurately identify these factors.
An authorised fire safety auditor should carry out your company’s initial pre-construction phase (including site surveys and inspections) with help from local authorities and regulatory bodies if necessary. After that, ongoing monitoring is essential throughout all stages of construction until complete demolition occurs on-site – at which point another full risk assessment should take place before any further work begins again on another building project in that location/location type (e.g. apartment block).
2. Fire drills and testing of equipment
Fire drills and testing of equipment are important parts of fire safety planning. Fire drills should be carried out regularly and recorded in a log book. A designated professional should carry out fire drills and testing, including periodic inspection of the method used to control fire on site.
Floor plans should be submitted to the building owner with details on how they were developed and any limitations that may exist due to equipment or obstructions in corridors (e.g. heavy doors).
3. Fire risk plan
A fire risk plan can help you and your team avoid the many pitfalls that lead to serious injury, death, and damage. The plan is a document that outlines the steps that will be taken to reduce the risk of fire on site. It should be updated regularly, especially after a fire has occurred. You can use it as an internal process for planning but also as proof that you have thought through how things could go wrong, so should anything happen during construction, others are aware of what has been done in preparation for it.
4. Fire safety awareness training
Fire safety awareness training should be provided to all staff and visitors, including contractors, subcontractors, and suppliers. This can be done in several ways:
- Intensive on-site training provided by the employer or their nominated fire safety officer
- Group sessions delivered by an external specialist contractor or service provider (e.g., an accredited trainer)
- Individual briefings conducted by the employer or their nominated fire safety officer
- Fire safety documentation including fire safety plans and instructions available to all personnel upon request
There are multiple aspects of fire safety planning that construction sites must consider to remain compliant with the law and prevent accidents. We hope that this blog post has given you a better understanding of why fire safety planning is important for construction sites and how you can get started. Please remember that it is not just about complying with legal requirements or industry compliance, but also about making sure your workers and visitors are safe from any potential fire incidents and their consequences. If you are looking to get started with fire safety planning for your construction sites, you can start your 30-day free PlanRadar trial here.