Construction site fire
12 June 2019
On Monday 18 February 2019 ACT Fire and Rescue were called to a construction site fire in Braddon. The fire was located on the 11th floor of the site which was unoccupied at the time. The fire, which had spread to the lowers levels below before being extinguished, was accessed by ACT Fire and Rescue via the site scaffolding. The fire destroyed a considerable area of formwork on the top level and lower levels, which required considerable rectification to make the site safe.
WorkSafe ACT were notified of the incident at the time via Emergency Services as a notifiable incident. WorkSafe Investigators attended the site at the time of the fire and commenced an investigation into the circumstances that led to the fire starting.
Investigation has identified that the fire commenced on the top level of the site where formwork preparation, steel fixing and the installation of post tension cables had been undertaken.
Investigations revealed the fire started in accumulated sawdust and the application of an ignition source from the cutting of post tension cables with an angle grinder in the same area as the saw dust.
The fire started in the sawdust in the corner of the formwork, which smouldered for some time before it burnt through the formwork. This provided more oxygen to the fire, which increased in intensity. The increased intensity transferred to the cardboard column sleeve, increasing available fuel to burn leading to the fire spreading to the timber supporting members and formwork.
Sawdust from cutting formwork is very common at construction sites everywhere. It is common that the erection of formwork is undertaken at the same time as the placement of steel for pouring concrete decks. It is imperative that the working area where this work is being undertaken is regularly inspected and kept clean. At the conclusion of work, and prior to leaving the site unattended, the formwork deck should be thoroughly cleaned and cleared of all loose flammable material. Any piles of sawdust and other flammable debris in areas where grinding or hot works have been undertaken should be wet down and cleared.
Workers have previously been seriously injured and killed and buildings destroyed in fires at construction sites. Hot works permits if applicable should be strictly followed. Flammable materials should always be assessed and a process to manage the risk of fire implemented and followed.
Mitigating the risks
The risks associated with fire hazards must be managed, so far as is reasonably practicable, by ensuring:
- work undertaken in proximity to combustible materials does not include the use of possible ignition sources without appropriate protection e.g. shields for hot works.
- the appropriate number and type of fire extinguishers are maintained on site.
- combustible materials are regularly inspected, cleaned up as work proceeds and not left unattended.
- emergency systems, including evacuation procedures, are in place, and are regularly tested.
- all site personnel and contractors are informed of the fire hazards associated with construction during the induction process and are trained in emergency procedures.
In addition to the expenses related to the remediation of the fire impacted area including the removal and reconstruction of the form work deck, WorkSafe ACT issued $7,200.00 in fines from the investigation into the incident.
This Alert contains information emerging during an investigation by WorkSafe ACT into the mentioned incident at the date of this report. The information contained in this report does not necessarily reflect the final outcome of WorkSafe’s views or proposed actions with respect to this incident. WorkSafe ACT does not warrant the information in this report is complete or up-to date and does not accept any liability to any person for the information in this report, or its use.
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