Ray O’Brocki, CFSC Fire Service Relations Manager
May 22, 2019
Regardless of materials and construction type, each building comes with potential fire hazards – hot work, electronic devices, and more, contribute to greater fire risk and are easily avoidable.
During construction, a building is at its most vulnerable state. Buildings under construction or renovation may have any of these conditions that supports fire development and spread:
- Combustible material and waste material are present in significant amounts
- Buildings under construction are generally unprotected. Fire protection systems, detection systems, and compartmentation is unavailable or incomplete.
- Hot work; such as, welding, cutting, soldering, brazing, and grinding are performed
- Fire apparatus access and fire protection water supply may be limited or hampered due to conditions present at the construction site.
- Use of temporary heating and cooking devices.
Fire safety plans can mitigate the threat of fires and reduce their impact if they do occur. For your next project, work with your team to create a fire safety plan starting with these simple steps.
Step 1 – Equip the Site
A fire-safe construction project starts with a physically fire-safe site. To ensure this, your site should include the following:
- A first aid and safety station – accessible by all employees and always stocked with necessary supplies
- Up-to-date fire extinguishers and water supply – placed throughout the site, especially near flammable work and gases, and easily identified with proper signage
- Warning and safety signage – placed throughout the site, especially near hot work and any gas lines
- Stored hazardous materials – assigned to a specific area and kept at least 35 feet away from flammable work
- Exit routes – identified with proper signage and accessible by all employees
Step 2 – Establish a Fire Watch personnel
Assign an individual(s) to conduct periodic patrols of the entire construction site. Identify any security and safety issues and immediately report or remedy them. This individual should know site happenings and information, such as:
- Any hot work is taking place and where (separate fire watch for hot work)
- The location of all exit routes and safety tools including fire extinguishers
- Contact information for all local emergency responders
- Protocol for how to properly report a fire
Step 3 – Record and report
Document the site and employees in detail, including actions that will take place and the locations of fire safety tools, and provide local emergency responders with the site schematic to use in the event of a fire. Record any fire safety directors and fire watch individuals, all employees on-site each day, any contractors or consultants visiting the site. In addition to reporting the construction site address, ensure that the address is physically posted and clearly visible to emergency responders. Finally, record the physical addresses of the nearest emergency services and hospitals and ensure that they are visibly displayed for all employees.
Step 4 – Conduct regular equipment checks
The safety of your site is only as safe and the equipment you are using. Therefore, it is necessary to conduct regular checks to ensure all equipment is working properly. This includes testing or inspecting sprinkler systems, exit routes, water supplies and fire extinguishers, gas lines and flammable materials storage, and designated smoking areas. Fire and emergency drills must also be conducted with employees to ensure the safety of all people involved in the construction process.
A proper fire safety plan can make the difference in any construction project – preventing destruction of property and surrounding structures as well as onsite teams, community residents, and first responders.
A complete fire safety plan includes planning for:
- Site security
- Vehicle access and parking
- Fire protection systems – including standpipes, hydrants, and sprinklers
- Policies for smoking and cooking on-site
- Exits and evacuation
- Storage of combustible and hazardous materials
- Hot work practices
To learn more and create a complete fire safety plan, download the Model Fire Plan Checklist. It can help to ensure that your next project and teams can properly prevent and mitigate fire risks.
Raymond O’Brocki, is the manager of fire service relations for the American Wood Council. Before that he was the chief building official for the City of Rockville, MD. He retired as the assistant fire chief the Baltimore City Fire Department in 2013. He was appointed fire marshal for Baltimore City in 2008. During his tenure as fire marshal, Baltimore City recorded the three lowest annual fire fatality totals in its history. O’Brocki has served on the Maryland State Child Care Advisory Council, Maryland State Fire Code Update Committee, State Fire Marshals Legislative Working Group in Annapolis and the steering committee for the Mid-Atlantic Life Safety Conference. He has served on the NFPA Urban Fire Safety Task Force and has presented at the National Fire Academy. Ray is currently a sitting member of the NFPA 1 technical committee. He is a graduate of the University of Baltimore School of law and a licensed attorney.