On construction sites and completed buildings, a strong line of defence against fire outbreaks is essential to safeguard workers and building assets.

Fires on construction sites are an all-too-common hazard that can threaten lives and scuttle projects.

With the storage of building materials, the accumulation of dust and the use of power tools that generate sparks, such areas require extra diligence on the safety front. Conducting rigorous site assessments should be the starting point for building owners, including bringing in fire-suppression experts to advise on the types of fire extinguishers that should be deployed in the event of a blaze.

Broadly, the options will include water-based fire extinguishers that can control wood, paper, textile or rubbish fires; gaseous extinguishers that are suitable for ignitions stemming from electrical appliances such as switchboards, motors and electronics; and foam extinguishers that are designed to combat flammable liquids such as petrol, paint and solvents.

During the construction phase, it is important to factor in and install appropriate fire-suppression systems so they can be deployed quickly if a fire breaks out in the completed building. Gaseous and foam extinguishers, in particular, have become especially sophisticated in the past decade and should be a key component of any fire-mitigation strategy.

Gaseous suppression

In contained areas of completed buildings, gaseous suppression is one of the most effective forms of fire control available. Gaseous systems work in different ways, some lower oxygen to levels so that a fire can’t be maintained, while others work essentially as a fire retardant and or provide cooling.

When deployed in a well-sealed area, gaseous systems can maintain appropriate concentrations of gas to prevent the reignition of a fire. This buys time in minimising the damage as site operators wait for firefighting services to arrive at the site and evaluate the scene.

To ensure the best and safest results with gaseous suppression, it is crucial to conduct testing in advance of the installation of systems to ensure the enclosure is structurally suitable for such a method and has appropriate pressure relief venting. All gaseous extinguishing systems create negative and/or positive pressures on discharge and proper venting ensures the structural integrity of the area.

Foam suppression

A range of synthetic and biodegradable firefighting foam concentrates are suitable for a wide variety of fire risks. The beauty of the latest foam concentrates is two-fold – they can protect buildings from blazes while not harming the environment.

Such foams are typically applied in two ways: non-aspirated, through water nozzles, sprinklers or deluge nozzles; and aspirated, through foam-making devices such as branch pipes, top pourers, foam cannons, foam sprinklers or high-expansion generators.

Regardless of which foam fire retardants are being used, sites must deploy hardware that has been designed to deliver the right amount of foam in the most effective manner.

Each site is likely to require different needs. To protect assets and minimise costly downtime from fires, it is advisable to seek the input of fire-suppression experts who can make the process simple and offer product support during the installation and commissioning process.

Given the dire consequences a fire can have for construction sites, completed buildings and workers, it is incumbent upon project managers and designers to make the right choices and avoid poor installation of suppression systems.

Using experienced fire-suppression specialists with a proven track record on building  sites is a must.

Delta Fire specialises in the fire protection of high-risk environments such as construction sites. Visit www.deltafire.com.au for more details.

Could your business benefit from some expert fire protection advice?