Fight Fire on the Construction Site Before It Starts

With all the attention garnered in recent years by the California wildfires, it’s a vivid reminder of the constant threat that jobsite fires can pose on construction projects. Contractors need to continually reassess their risk management plans to adequately prepare for a potential fire. The International Marine Underwriters Association offers the following ten tips for keeping construction sites free from fire:

1.   Maintain a written loss control plan that comprehensively addresses risks of fire exposure. Your plan should include general safety measures and specific objectives that are actively enforced by job site management, with a specific person in charge of on-site safety coordination.

2.   A no smoking policy should be enforced at all times during the project.

3.   Daily on-site inspections by project managers should investigate the work area, material and equipment storage, and any locations with hazards. A log should be maintained of all daily inspections for future reference.

4.   During “hot works” operations like cutting, welding or brazing, a designated person should look for sparks that could lead to fires by maintaining a line of sight to the working and adjacent areas.  This person should actively watch for sparks, slag, and products of combustion, as well as inspecting the surrounding areas for at least 30 minutes after operations have ceased.

5.   All portable heating equipment should be placed on non-combustive flooring or platforms. Adequate clearance, maintenance and fueling should be in accordance with manufacturer’s specifications and/or recognized standards.

6.   Build temporary enclosures that contain designated travel paths for materials and emergency personnel.  Ideally, these enclosures should be located away from overhead exposures and should be built with approved Underwriters Laboratory or Factory Mutual non-combustible construction materials.

7.   During roof construction, place at least one portable fire extinguisher on the roof level that has sufficient capacity for the task at hand.

8.   Properly clean roof vents to reduce possible ignition sources, such as lint, prior to roof surfacing operations.

9.   Review identification and labeling requirements on flammable liquid and gas containers prior to allowing them on the jobsite. Designate safe storage areas for flammable materials and clearly identify them with signs and stable barriers.

10.  Firefighting equipment should be readily available on the jobsite at all times. Project managers should ensure that such equipment is properly implemented, connected to a reliable water supply and easily adaptable to local fire department equipment.

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