Guide to Fire Extinguisher Requirements for Construction Sites
With sparks flying, dangerous chemicals lying about, and flammable substances in multiple places, construction sites are especially prone to dangerous fires. That’s why all builders need to make sure they’re taking fire safety seriously.
Having fire extinguishers on site is one of the most important precautions for a builder to take. Not only could the extinguishers save lives and property in the event of a fire, but they’re also required by law in Australia. Once you’ve read a bit more about fire extinguishers and the right way to use them, you’ll be ready to keep your construction site secure, safe, and legal.
The Right Type of Fire Extinguishers
Not all fire extinguishers are the same. There are four different types of extinguishers on the market, each using specific materials as the extinguishing agent and designed to put out certain types of fires. You’ll have to consider the specific nature of your construction site before deciding which types of extinguishers you’ll need.
Dry Chemical Powder Extinguishers
These are the fire extinguishers most common on construction sites. They’re suitable for putting out various types of fires, including:
- Class A (paper, textiles, wood, rubbish)
- Class B (flammable liquids)
- Class C (combustible gases)
- Class E (electrical equipment)
These extinguishers are perfect for fires among rubbish, wood, paper, or textiles. If your dumpster suddenly erupts in flames, a water extinguisher is what you’ll want to reach for.
These are the preferred extinguishers for fires lit among flammable liquids. You’ll want to have one of these on hand for any project where such liquids are present.
Carbon Dioxide Extinguishers
Carbon dioxide is the best tool for extinguishing electrical fires. Whenever you’re working with electrical cords and breakers on the site, it makes sense to have one of these extinguishers handy.
Matching the Extinguishers to the On-Site Materials
A responsible builder must carefully consider which types of fire extinguishers they need to keep on the site. A dry powder extinguisher will be necessary for almost any project, while the need for the other types will depend on the specific characteristics of the project. When in doubt, it’s always best to have all the different types of extinguishers available. That way, you’ll be ready for any class of fire that could potentially ignite. As with all components of fire safety, it’s prudent to take extra precautions.
Having fire extinguishers on your construction site isn’t just a matter of personal judgement. It’s also necessary according to Australian law. By understanding the regulations and adhering to them exactly, you can avoid legal troubles while keeping your workers safe.
The Building Code of Australia (BCA) is very specific in stipulating how builders must distribute fire extinguishers throughout a construction site. The law states that at least one extinguisher suitable for Class A, B, and C fires must be placed alongside the exits on every story of a building under construction. Fire hydrants with fire reels are also required once a building exceeds 12 metres in height.
The Builder’s Responsibility
The legal responsibility to provide fire extinguishers falls on the builder. That means the builder will be penalized if any infractions are discovered. Some Australian cities conduct occasional audits to ensure compliance, and violations can bring both hefty fines and costly construction delays.
The Hazards of a Construction Site
It’s important to remember that buildings are especially vulnerable to fire while they’re under construction. There are a couple of reasons for this. First of all, the preponderance of chemicals, heavy equipment, and flammable materials makes it more likely that a fire will break out. Even if you’re extremely careful in how you handle all these hazards, a construction site is still inherently at greater risk than a completed home or commercial building.
Construction sites are also a lot more open than a completed structure. This means flames have an easier time spreading from one segment of the compound to another. When a fire starts in one part of the building, it can be a matter of minutes before the entire structure is up in flames.
Because buildings under construction are, by definition, incomplete, they’re more prone to collapse when a fire causes structural damage. This means even a relatively small fire can prove extremely damaging.
It’s also worth recognizing that fighting a fire is especially difficult on a construction site. Accessing and navigating the property isn’t as easy for firefighters as it is with a completed structure. That’s why it’s so important to do everything you can to prevent and control fires as long as you’re working on the project.
If you’re ready to put out a smaller fire immediately, you can prevent minor incidents from getting out of hand. Having working fire extinguishers distributed throughout the site is the best way to control fires as soon as they ignite.
A construction site is a much happier place when everyone feels their safety is being looked after. The proper distribution of fire extinguishers will allow everyone at the site to do their jobs with confidence and peace of mind.
The Importance of Maintenance and Training
Simply placing fire extinguishers around your construction site is not enough to keep the property safe. Fire extinguishers are only valuable if they’re well maintained and people know how to use them. That’s why maintenance and training are so important.
Conducting Regular Drills
Everyone working at your construction site should know exactly how to respond in the case of a fire. The only way to reach an adequate level of preparedness is by conducting drills. Make sure you teach your workers how to use a fire extinguisher as part of the training. These machines might not be especially difficult to figure out, but it is still best that workers can use them without the slightest delay. You should also explain the different types of fire extinguishers so that everyone knows which kind to use when a fire breaks out. When everyone’s prepared for the worst-case scenario, you have a better chance of limiting the damage.
Ensuring Fire Extinguishers Are Operable
The Australian government stipulates that fire extinguishers must be certified every six months. This is to make sure they’re in full working order the moment a fire strikes. An unused fire extinguisher can suffer frozen triggers and other mechanical issues. Just a small amount of maintenance should be enough to keep them working.
A Basic Checklist for Fire Extinguishers on Construction Sites
Here are the basic questions you should ask yourself when it comes to fire extinguishers on your construction site:
Are there enough fire extinguishers on the premises?
Do I have the right type of fire extinguishers for the materials on the construction site?
Are the fire extinguishers in clear, easily accessible locations?
Have we conducted maintenance on the fire extinguishers within the past six months?
If you can answer “yes” to all these questions, then you’re in pretty good shape.
General On-Site Fire Safety
While fire extinguishers are certainly important, they aren’t the only thing necessary for fire safety on a construction site. There are other factors to consider in your efforts to protect property and workers. A comprehensive fire safety strategy should involve prevention, control, and preparation. If you succeed in these three areas, you’ll be well on your way toward operating a responsible, secure construction site.
The best way to fight a fire is by preventing it from starting in the first place. By removing fire hazards, carefully storing flammable materials, and banning dangerous practices like smoking on the site, you can minimize the risk of a fire. It’s also important to distribute smoke detectors and fire alarms throughout the site. These will alert you the moment a fire presents itself.
A small fire might not pose a serious threat if you can control it immediately. You can make it easier to subdue fires on your construction site by installing the right equipment. Fire blankets, sprinkler systems, fire extinguishers, and fire hydrants are all important weapons in the battle against a nascent blaze. If you’ve got all these articles on hand, you should be able to control a fire before it gets out of hand.
A fire safety plan will only prove effective if everyone working on the site knows what it is. Make sure you conduct the training and drills necessary to teach workers how to use equipment and evacuate safely.
Conclusion: Fire Extinguishers and On-Site Safety
Fire safety is a crucial element of the construction business that no builder should overlook. By obtaining fire extinguishers and taking the precautions outlined above, you can protect your site while staying on the right side of the law.
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