Legend has it that the Chinese made the first fireworks in the 800s, filling bamboo shoots with gunpowder and exploding them at New Year with the hope the sound would scare away evil spirits. Fireworks became known in Europe during the 1300s, probably after returning Crusaders brought them back from the East. In this country, fireworks are used to celebrate November 5th – the anniversary of Guy Fawkes’ (failed) attempt to blow up Parliament.
A simple sparkler reaches a temperature of up to 2,000°C; rockets can reach 150mph and heights of up to 200metres.
Statistics published by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills state that in one year alone there were 216 injuries caused by rockets, 111 by air bombs and 104 by sparklers.
I recently heard arson described as suspicious, malicious, doubtful or deliberate.
In January this year Construction News published research showing that there had been a significant increase in the number of fires started deliberately on construction sites. Their article showed that between 2015 and 2017 the number of deliberate fires had increased from 119 to 170 per year.
Whether it is the buildings themselves, the use of potentially combustible and/or flammable materials and substances or the waste produced, there is always plenty of fuel present on a construction site for a fire to occur.
At this time of year, we need to consider not only the risk of arson but also accidental fires as supermarkets and corner shops fill their shelves with fireworks.
As a site manager it is therefore important that you secure your sites to protect against the risk of a fire occurring both during the day and outside of normal operating hours.
Is your site perimeter secure – if you have anti climb fencing, have you considered the proximity of objects which would allow it to be scaled – such as bus shelters, post boxes, etc.
A truly determined intruder however will always get onto site if they want to, so it’s important to consider other security measures, whether that be the presence of an out of hours security guard or monitored CCTV.
If a fire was started do you have a detection and alarm system installed and are there procedures in place to respond to it.
Are flammable materials, liquids and gases being kept securely in flame proof cabinets, containers or cages.
Are combustible materials being stored away from boundaries and accommodation units? Similarly, are skips covered and located away from boundaries? This will prevent most cases of casual arson.
Have you considered the proximity of neighbouring properties? A fire on your site out of hours might have a significant financial impact on you but could be life threatening for sleeping neighbours of the fire spreads beyond your boundary.
All these issues need to be considered in your fire risk assessment and reflected in your fire and emergency plan for the site.