Construction Fire Safety

Fire at a construction site can endanger the lives of workers and others who happen to be on the site. A fire during the course of construction also can result in severe structural damage; destruction of machinery, equipment or materials; and untimely delay in project completion.

The fire-loss potential during the construction phase is far greater than after project completion. During construction, hazards inherently associated with building operations are continually being generated. At the same time, permanent fire protection systems and equipment are usually not yet in place or, at best, only partially in service. Likewise, vertical and horizontal fire-related structures (i.e. walls, floors, doors, etc.), designed to minimize fire spread, are usually not completed until late in the construction schedule.

It is essential, therefore, that an effective fire prevention and extinguishing plan be developed before the onset of construction. The plan should be put into practice as soon as construction operations begin and should be closely followed throughout the course of construction. The fire protection plan is a vital segment of the overall project safety program.

Project management – whether owner, construction manager, prime contractor or a combination thereof – must clearly assign and spell out the responsibility for site fire protection before the start of the project. All contractors and subcontractors should be made aware of this responsibility and authority assignment. Procedures should be established for expedient handling of “imminent danger”-type hazards.

Determine applicable requirements concerning such items as temporary power and lighting, blasting, storage of flammables and temporary heating devices, and the like.

The local fire department should be made aware of construction plans and should be kept up to date during the course of construction regarding items such as access to the site during both working and non-working hours; and the location of standpipe systems, pumper connections, fuel storage, stairways, elevators, hoists, power and fuel shutoffs, emergency generators, and fixed-fire extinguishing systems. Inviting the local fire department to inspect the worksite can be beneficial for both parties. Fire departments should be made aware of chemicals or hazardous substances on site.