By: Alec Schaufuenbuel
October is fire protection month – so here is your personal reminder to check your fire extinguishers and fire alarms at home. On construction projects though, fire protection requires a bit more than a few simple checks.
Fire protection starts with properly planning your work and having all your paperwork in order. As construction begins and until the project is turned over, basic housekeeping measures become essential to reducing the risk of fire. So from beginning to end on any project remember to:
- properly store flammable materials (this becomes more necessary in the winter months as temporary heaters are added to jobsites);
- keep walkways clear at all times; and
- regularly clean up and remove debris.
Before work begins though, make sure you have the proper hot work permits in place for the facility you are working in, on or around. According to OSHA’s website, hot work is any work that involves "riveting, welding, flame cutting or other fire or spark-producing operations”.
Hot work permits are required as hot work is most frequently related to fire and explosion hazards. Before beginning this type of work:
- be aware of all flammable vapors and combustible materials and remove any hazards from the area;
- have appropriate firefighting equipment nearby; and
- as a precaution, assign a fire watch to guard against fire while welding.
A fire watch is a simple but incredibly important role when hot work is being completed. The fire watch should be trained in fire extinguisher use and should have an extinguisher in their possession while hot work is being performed. They must also know where and how to sound the fire alarm and must be on guard for one hour after the hot work is completed to detect and extinguish any fire that may be smoldering.
OSHA requires that no less than a 2A fire extinguisher be accessible for every 3,000 square feet of protected building. OSHA also requires that a worker should not have to travel more than 100 feet to access an extinguisher.
The types of fire extinguishers available are:
- Class A - Ordinary combustibles
- Class B - Flammable liquids
- Class C - Electrical appliances
- Class D - Combustible metals
- Class E - Flammable gases
Finally, remember PASS if you ever have to use a fire extinguisher.
Pull the pin -- Aim at the base of the fire -- Squeeze the trigger -- Sweep side to side
Following these simple steps can significantly reduce fire hazards and help keep our jobsites safe and running smoothly.