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Fire safety in buildings under construction is a hugely important topic due to the devastating impact large construction fires can have. While rare, the consequences of construction fires are attracting more attention in the public and private sectors, pointing to the need for more accountability on construction sites and greater enforcement of existing fire and building codes.

A variety of best practice manuals and training videos are available on www.constructionfiresafety.org to help reduce the frequency and severity of construction fires. These materials are designed to educate and inform construction crews, including site superintendents, local building and fire regulators, and responding fire departments on how to prevent fires, reduce losses and ensure overall safety at large construction sites.

Specific topics covered in the manuals include:

  • Basic fire precautions during construction of large buildings: This applies during the design and planning stages as well as the actual construction. Many hazards can be addressed before they become an issue through the adoption of management best practices.
  • Hot work during construction of large buildings: This describes management best practices regarding hot work, thought to be the most impactful way to reduce the occurrence of large loss fires for buildings under construction. Hot work activities include cutting, welding, grinding, thermal spraying, thawing pipe, installation of torch-applied roof systems or any other similar activity. Accountability and oversight must be in place to ensure these practices are implemented and working, and that all procedures are being followed.
  • The fire department’s role in prevention and suppression of fires during construction of large buildings: This outlines pre-fire planning for large building projects and prepares tactics and strategy for a fire if it occurs.

These materials are also intended to be a resource to guide professionals who provide safety training to construction industry employees. However, it is important to understand they are not intended to provide all the information necessary for development of a comprehensive safety training course, as they present issues only pertaining to fire safety.

That said, building site superintendents can use the new manuals in several different ways when overseeing large construction projects. One way is to combine them into a field guide for fire safety practices. They can alternatively be kept separate and used individually, with the inclusion of a note regarding the availability of other resources.

Fire hydrants are easily obscured on the scene of construction sites. In this case, a trash container is placed in front of the hydrant rendering it almost useless. Such obstacles should be removed immediately.

Additionally, superintendents can choose how to use the training videos. The series can be viewed altogether as one 13-minute video, or broken into seven separate short videos, including:

  • Chapter 1: Fire Prevention is Everyone’s Business
  • Chapter 2: Implementing a Fire Protection Plan
  • Chapter 3: Fire Safe Practices
  • Chapter 4: A Clean Jobsite Is Fire Safe
  • Chapter 5: The Fire Service is an Important Partner
  • Chapter 6: Security Monitor Site Access & Safety
  • Chapter 7: Stop Fire Before it Starts

Most—if not all—construction fires that have occurred over the last few decades were preventable, provided the best practices outlined in these materials were applied. For this reason, superintendents should familiarize themselves and their teams with these resources to enhance fire safety at building construction sites.

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