Look Twice, Act Once - Site Emergencies Part 1: Fire

Welcome to November – that means we are nearly at the end of 2022!

This month we are going to be looking at emergencies on site, what they can look like, and what to do if there is any kind of an emergency. And don’t forget there will be a short quiz at the end of the month which will allow you to win credit at your local MM Electrical store!

This week, we are looking at fire – and specifically what happens and what to do if you’re involved in a fire outbreak on a construction site.

Fire is not something to be trifled with. It can cause severe burns, maiming, long term health issues, and death. And, whilst there is often a lot of focus on residential fires and fires in completed buildings – a fire on a construction site can be just as, if not, more deadly.

This is due to the unfinished nature of a building – no doors or walls to slow down outbreaks, plenty of oxygen to fuel it, and possible contact with volatile and combustible material on site from rubbish through to chemicals which may make the fire much, much worse.

The causes of a fire on a site can be numerous – from sparks due to grinders, to an electrical fault (which is what caused the burn down of the Notre Damme cathedral in 2019), hot work, and of course smoking on site. The bottom line is that it can be dangerous, and come form a multitude of different places.

So what should you do?

Before a fire even starts, you should be familiar with the emergency exit strategy. This is not just for fires, but in the case that you need to get out of the dwelling in an emergency, then you will need to make sure you know where the rally point is, and where you’re all going to go. You should also be making sure your assessment of the work site is including clear walkways in the case of an emergency. The last thing you want is to be on the move away from danger and trip and injure yourself on a stray piece of lumber. This also ties into the notion of keeping a clean work area and building site – with less refuse around, there is less fuel for a fire to use and spread. Remember, fire needs Heat, Fuel and Oxygen to function – we can’t get rid of oxygen, but we can mitigate the fuel and the heat.

In the event of a very small fire (no bigger than a small dinner plate), you may like to try and stop if from becoming a larger fire. You can do this by removing the fuel, removing the oxygen, or extinguishing the flame. However, depending on the type of fire, this may not be achievable. Electrical fires are better handled by professionals and cannot be put out by water, whereas a fire caused by a cigarette butt might be able to be put out with water from your canteen, for example. Fire blankets are particularly effective for this, and we recommend that you should have one on hand.

In the event of an outbreak of fire, you should immediately cease what you are doing, and if it hasn’t already been done set off the fire alarm. If you are the one who has set off the fire alarm, you may decide to attempt to fight the fire – you must only attempt to fight a fire if you are competent to do so, meaning you know how to use a fire extinguisher, and understand the immediate risks. You must make sure someone is aware of your whereabouts. You must ensure that you never turn your back to the fire, and always stand with your exit closest to you. This is so you can get out if you need to. And, if the fire begins to get larger than you’re comfortable with, immediately head to the evacuation point.

If you must evacuate, and smoke has started to occupy the room you’re in or moving through, stay low to the ground to avoid inhaling as much smoke as possible. If need be, you may need to crawl to safety.

Once outside, make sure you speak to your boss or tradesperson, to ensure they can mark you as safe and sound.

Fire is highly dangerous. We cannot stress this enough. Fire does not take any prisoners, and will ravage a building site in minutes. It will not show you grace, nor mercy, and the best opportunity you have is to get away from it as quickly as possible. Remember, your safety is your own responsibility, and it is also paramount. So, it’s always better to err on the side of caution.

In the event that you do catch on fire, remember to stop, drop, and roll. (AE44996) That is STOP where you are, DROP to the ground, and ROLL backwards and forward to smother the flames.

It’s been a big post this week – but we’re glad you got through it! Next week we will be talking about Drilling errors.

Published on: Thursday, 10 November 2022