Identifying Construction Fire Risk Begins with 5 Questions

Ray O’Brocki, CFSC Fire Service Relations Manager

May 22, 2019

In March, we covered the fire vulnerability of buildings under construction and renovation. This month, we recognize that the key to preventing construction fires is to first identify your fire risks and hazards. However, this may be easier said than done. That’s why the Construction Fire Safety Coalition (CFSC) offers tools and resources to determine your project’s risk and keep your development and staff safe.

The goal of risk assessments is to identify the potentially hazardous relationship that a material or action has in relation to fire.  

To identify the fire risk of a material or action, construction site managers can begin by asking the following questions:

Does this material or work require an open flame?

Hot work requires an open flame and is commonly used on construction sites. Knowing this, it is important to keep hot work away from combustible materials and conduct the work in a properly ventilated area. A hot work permit must always be obtained. For a model Hot Work checklist, click here.

Where are  hazardous materials stored?

Fuels, gases and the like, must be stored in safe containers and placed away from any hot work or open flames. These materials must also be properly labeled to prevent any mistakes and misidentification.

What housekeeping steps are taken when a task is completed?

When an action is completed, or the day comes to a close, proper housekeeping is necessary for safety. This includes reviewing the following information:

  • Are hazardous materials properly disposed of?
  • Is electric equipment turned off and removed from their power source?
  • Are all materials and equipment, especially those that are highly combustible, placed back in their proper storage?
  • For more information, click here.

What security is in place?

Proper security is instrumental in mitigating fire risk. During the work day, an individual(s) must be assigned as Fire Watch – conducting regular site rounds to identify any risks. When the work day closes, proper fencing, lights, alarms, cameras, and security guards can keep your site safe from trespassers and arsonists.

Knowing how to recognize fire risks is the first step in creating a safe construction environment. To identify your fire risks and take action to remedy any hazards, utilize the CSFC risk reduction and mitigation resources on our site.

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.