Whether you’re fixing something in a customer’s home or are one of many trades working on a construction site, fire safety is a serious concern which you have to bear in mind.
Simply taking a few precautions before, during and after a job is all it takes, and there’s no reason why it should take any extra time or effort. This ensures your good work isn’t destroyed, but more importantly, that you, co-workers and clients are all safe from the risk of fire.
If you have business premises, such as a workshop, and you hire other people or have customers visiting, then you’ll need to comply with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. To do this, you need to carry out a fire risk assessment yourself, noting potential hazards and people at risk, then taking the necessary action to reduce the risks as much as practically possible.
However, if you’re constantly on the move with your van being the closest thing you have to a workshop or office, then there are other safety measures you’ll need to have in place.
Install a Vehicle Fire Extinguisher
Unless you’re carrying dangerous goods in your van, there are no laws requiring you to have a fire extinguisher on board, although it is still strongly recommended. Having a small 1kg or 2kg Powder Fire Extinguisher is a great idea, as it means you’re able to tackle a fire.
Hot tools or stray sparks could cause a fire, as could a problem with your vehicle, or arson. Quickly jumping into action could prevent a small fire escalating and causing extensive damage, and with it fixed inside your van, you know it’s never far away.
Between 2016 and 2017, there were 23,500 vehicle fires in England, around half of which were accidental. With a van full of tools and materials, losing it all to a ball of flames could be devastating.
Maintain Your Equipment
When you look after your tools, they last longer – it’s as simple as that. When they’re used and abused, they can become damaged and dirty, which over time could cause them to fail. This is particularly the case with electrical appliances as they are prone to causing fires and electrocution when they do go wrong.
You should make sure they are maintained following manufacturer’s guidelines. This may state that they need to be cleaned at regular intervals, or for larger and more complex appliances, a service carried out by a trained professional.
For peace of mind, it may even be worth having your electrical tools PAT tested annually.
Stick To What You Know
Resist the temptation to try your hand at something you’ve not been professionally trained to do. Everyone thinks they can try their hand at electrics, but unless you’re actually an electrician, avoid them all costs.
Especially with gas and electric, it’s vital that you know what you’re doing. It only takes one small mistake to cause a catastrophe that could potentially have deadly consequences. And you would liable for it.
The Fire Action Plan
When you’re working on site, before you start you should be made aware of all the site’s health and safety procedures, of which fire safety will be one. If you’re not told, then for your own safety, you should make an effort to find out. For example, this could include the fire evacuation plan and how you get to safety in an emergency.
It may well also state limitations on the type of activities which can be carried out and where, plus the rules on smoking and on storing dangerous materials.
Carrying Out Hot Work
A construction site may also use Hot Work Permits or have restrictions. Before even thinking about soldering or welding, find out and ensure work is carried out in line with the guidelines.
You need to be extra careful when carrying out hot works in any location, however. A stray spark is all it could take to start a fire. This is why before you start, you’ll want to remove any combustibles, lay down a welding blanket, and have a fire extinguisher close by.
Containing A Fire
Before running a cable or piping through a wall or ceiling, you must check whether or not it is designed to contain a fire. If that is the case, then drilling a hole will ruin its fire-stopping integrity. First, you should try to find an alternative.
Failing that, then you will need to ensure you take steps to maintain the fire rating. In these instances, you’ll want to look at intumescent products such as pipe collars, and fire rated foams and mastics. These will react to fire or intense heat to protect gaps they’re placed in.