Risk Reduction & Mitigation

What kinds of actions are required?

After the risk assessment has been complete, the responsible party should detail the process used to assess the risk, identify any deficiencies that need to be overcome. This could also involve the use of root causes.

Safety consultants are very familiar with the concept of root causes. This is information that comes from studying past events. A classic example of this concept is found in the aviation industry. Many pilots continue to make the same mistakes over and over again. Those who study aviation accidents will tell you that there will be no substantially improvements in incidents and violations or the lapses in good judgment, until there is recognition of the human factors contributing to incidents. Incidents in aviation are examined by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). Incidents that result in death or injury in the construction industry are examined by Occupational Safety and Health Agency (OSHA). If a firefighter loses their life in these kinds of situations then an investigation may be conducted by the National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOSH).

Therefore, risk assessment should include reviewing past accidents and statistics to put safety practices into context. Identify and list the root causes you are trying to eliminate!

It takes substantial time and effort to try to mine all of the available databases. However there are a few documents that are readily available to assist in guiding risk assessment. These include reports done by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the United States Fire Administration (USFA).

Studying incidents can help in the development of risk reduction strategies. A proactive approach to safety requires that no matter how much experience a person has on the job that they respect the data that comes from past review of incidents. Investing in the time to learn from other people's past errors and misfortunes can substantially increase the level of awareness in the risk assessment process.

What about Temporary Solutions?

The building is likely to be equipped with sprinkler protection. However, this is usually not practical, especially in places where freezing conditions can occur. Also, the layout of interior walls and other construction features in the building will determine the location of sprinklers. Additionally, sprinklers may be needed under or in some of the equipment provided. Thus, while fire rated division walls and sprinkler protection should be provided as soon as possible they may or may not be operational until the building is finalized. A general "rule of thumb" is that combustibles should not be introduced in the building until sprinkler protection for the area is operational.

Once sprinkler systems and/or standpipes are installed, the fire protection control valves should be secured with locks to help deter tampering with these systems. For example, construction workers often attempt to use water from a standpipe. This valve could be left open if a water supply is not actively present. When a water supply is activated, this could result in water spilling into the space. This could cause water damage within the space, and could deplete the water supply so that adequate water is not available for fire protection.

Additionally, fire protection impairment procedures should be followed. A fire protection system may be put into service but then impaired for some additional work. Without proper impairment procedures, this system could be left out of service. This would result in adequate water not being available for fire protection. Part of this impairment system should include making sure that as much of the fire protection system is left in service as possible. An example of this can be found in the process of remodeling floors of a high-rise building. Floors that are not affected should be left in service, and as much of the floor that is affected should be left in service as well.

Supplying temporary systems may also help to minimize the damage in the event of a fire. For example, temporary sprinklers could be added to sprinkler piping at the ceiling until the full system can be installed. Stand-pipe systems can be added as floors for high-rise buildings are added. Also, a temporary water supply could feed water to sprinklers and or stand-pipes until the full water supply can be provided. Temporary fire detection systems can also help to alert the fire department of a fire.

Security

The more valuable the property the more security should be enhanced. The potential for vandalism or spite fires such as arson can be minimized by providing security to the construction site.

This can be accomplished by use of deterrents such as fencing, lights, security guards, motion detection alarms and video cameras.

Prompt Response

A prompt and adequate fire department response is key to minimizing damage in the event of an actual fire, especially if the internal protection systems, like sprinklers are not in service. Keeping the fire department updated with the status of the project will be of extreme value is an incident occurs. The conditions on a construction site change frequently. It will help to speed their response if they are kept informed. Making sure that the fire department has access and water supply on the site during all stages of the project will help firefighters in gaining control of an incident. This includes providing stairwells as soon as possible in multi-storied buildings and allowing access room for their apparatus outside.

All fires should be reported to the local fire authority. Fires that are put out by employees have been known to "rekindle" and destroy projects later in the night. ALL Fires should be reported and responded to by fire department personnel.

Summary

The establishment and maintenance of best possible conditions of work is, no doubt, the responsibility of management. But, it is also necessary that each employee follows prescribed safe methods of work. Have you ever heard the term "taking a risk?" That is when a person decides to do something that can cause someone to become harmed.

All employees should take reasonable care of the health and safety of themselves, of their fellow employees, and other persons who may be affected by the employee's actions at work.

With this in mind, employees should be fire and safety conscious and:

  • Report – all potential hazards.
  • Observe – all safety rules, procedures and codes of practice.
  • Study past incidents and use the lessons learned.
  • And use, with all reasonable, care the tools, equipment, safety equipment and personal protective equipment provided by the company.

Each construction project will have its own specific needs. Daily practices are very important in controlling the hazards on a site. Keeping combustibles away from ignition sources, providing adequate protection and detection as soon as possible, and working to ensure a prompt fire department response will all help to minimize the chances of a fire that could cause extensive damage at your construction site.