Fire Extinguishers on Construction Sites: What’s Required
Are you in compliance?
A fire on a construction site is no small threat. These fires can be even more hazardous than building fires because permanent fire protection systems aren’t usually in place yet. A fire can not only threaten the lives of your workers but destroy equipment and materials and put a major kink in a project’s schedule.
Every project should have a fire protection plan as part of its site-specific safety plan. And every construction site should have ready access to a fire extinguisher or water source for putting out fires.
OSHA stipulates that firefighting equipment be “conspicuously located.” Here’s what the agency requires in terms of fire extinguishers for construction sites (this assumes you don’t have standpipe system in place):
- “A fire extinguisher, rated not less than 2A, shall be provided for each 3,000 square feet of the protected building area, or major fraction thereof. Travel distance from any point of the protected area to the nearest fire extinguisher shall not exceed 100 feet.”
- “One 55-gallon open drum of water with two fire pails may be substituted for a fire extinguisher having a 2A rating.”
- “A 1/2-inch diameter garden-type hose line, not to exceed 100 feet in length and equipped with a nozzle, may be substituted for a 2A-rated fire extinguisher, providing it is capable of discharging a minimum of 5 gallons per minute with a minimum hose stream range of 30 feet horizontally. The garden-type hose lines shall be mounted on conventional racks or reels. The number and location of hose racks or reels shall be such that at least one hose stream can be applied to all points in the area.”
You can use a 1 ½-inch fire hose, able to discharge water at 25 gallons or more per minute, instead of a fire extinguisher in a designated area if the hose can reach all points in the area.
Different rules apply in different situations — for example, if you’re using more than 5 gallons of flammable or combustible liquids or 5 pounds of flammable gas on the jobsite. And you’ll need more extinguishers for multi-level projects.
It’s important to periodically inspect and maintain your fire extinguishers. An extinguisher is no good if it doesn’t work when you need it. If there’s a pressure gauge, it should indicate that the extinguisher is fully charged (the needle should be in the green zone). Don’t let an extinguisher or a water drum freeze.
At least one worker on every shift should be trained in how to use the fire extinguishers and taught which types of extinguishers can be used on which types of fires. It’s important to note that extinguishers should be used only for the initial stage of a fire, when the fire is small. And the first order of priority is to call the fire department.
Your local fire department may be able to help train employees on how to use fire extinguishers. It’s also smart to let them know about flammable chemicals or hazardous substances in use on the site.
Finally, make sure everyone on the project knows the evacuation plan in case evacuation is ever in order.