Plumbing Africa August 2018 - Page 19

ASSOCIATIONS 17 Fire safety awareness The risk of fires increases during the winter months. Fires on construction sites may result in people getting injured or killed and property being destroyed. By IOPSA A project, site or activity risk assessment should always include the elements of fire by recognising the potential sources of ignition and fuel. The risk assessment should acknowledge that in winter, the risks increase. SOURCE OF HEAT – IGNITION RISKS • Smoking ‘things’ — cigarettes, cigars, matches, or lighters • Hot works — heat and sparks from grinding, metal cutting, and welding • Electrical fixtures and equipment — sparks, shorts, overheating • Lightning — somewhat reduced in winter but still possible considering dry vegetation • Cooking — open fires, dry vegetation • Open fires — particularly in winter for warmth in the cold mornings and evenings • Portable heaters — left on overnight or unattended. SOURCE OF FUEL • Combustible refuse and trash — poor housekeeping • Building materials — skips left overfull • Flammable gases — not stored correctly, leaking valves • Flammable liquids — stored in plastic containers, spillage not contained • Packaging materials — not removed from site, left in areas where hot work takes place. HOW DOES A FIRE START? • Flames — naked flames, careless operation, not assessing the work environment • Sparks — from static electricity, loose electrical connection, or broken electrical insulation • Radiation — fuel sources (wood or paper) that are too close to hot work, open fire, or heating element • Friction — ungreased bearings that may heat up / machine drive belts rubbing on the cover • Spontaneous combustion — when mixing certain substances, the chemicals react and produce heat. THE FIRE TRIANGLE Fire needs three elements to survive: • Air: It can be the oxygen from the atmosphere or the fuel itself, but air is needed as a catalyst. • Fuel: A fire needs something to burn to start and continue. • Heat: There must be heat or an ignition source for a fire to start. FIREFIGHTING Every project should have a fair number of employees, in relation to the number of people on site, trained in the use of fire equipment. Every contractor should at least have, as part of their Toolbox Talk programme, a basic demonstration on the principles of fighting a fire. A basic method to communicate on how to use a fire extinguisher is the PASS system: Pull – Aim – Squeeze – Sweep (see Figure 1). FIRE SAFETY TIPS 1. Ensure that there is an emergency plan for the site and that it is regularly updated. 2. Display the phone numbers of the fire department and other emergency numbers near the phone. 3. Where practicable on site, display signage of escape routes and firefighting equipment. 4. Supply adequate methods of alerting people to the fire. 5. Eliminate fire hazards through good housekeeping and disposal of waste paper, rubbish, and other flammable materials on a regular basis. 6. Ensure fl ammable materials are stored in a properly contained area. 7. Electrical installations and wiring must be checked regularly, and repairs must be conducted by an authorised electrician. 8. Do not overload electrical circuits. 9. Unplug electrical appliance when not in use. 10. Obey the no-smoking signs. 11. Never leave lighted candles unattended. 12. Do not throw lighted cigarette ends into rubbish bins, skips, or into dried vegetation. 13. Ensure that all fire appliances and equipment are regularly inspected and maintained. Figure 1: The PASS (Pull – Aim – Squeeze – Sweep) method in using a fire extinguisher. Be prepared and alert, recognise a fire risk, and take precautions to prevent accidental fires. PA References • Best Practice Bulletin #094 by Buildsafe South Africa • Fire Safety in Construction (HSG168) by HSE Books. August 2018 Volume 24 I Number 6