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September 2006: Building Safeguards During Construction

During the construction, alterations or demolition of a building, the potential risk from fire is usually greater than when the building is fully occupied and functional.

As work progresses, the introduction of combustibles such as lumber, scaffolding, packaging materials and general combustible building materials increase. These combustibles can easily be ignited by the presence of ignition sources such as hot work operations, temporary heaters or roofers' heating equipment.

Often, the installation of automatic sprinklers is not complete when these combustibles are present.

Close monitoring of the combustible loading and the potential ignition sources during construction is necessary to prevent a catastrophic fire that could result in total building damage. The following General Safeguards will aid in the prevention of a potential fire:

Person in Charge/Fire Alarms

Someone should be assigned the duty of ensuring that proper procedures for controlling fire hazards are understood and being properly implemented. Rounds throughout the site should be made daily. A fire alarm box or telephone should be near the site and all personnel should be informed of the location and operation of the alarm/phone.

Automatic Sprinklers

The installation of automatic sprinklers should be expedited. Underground mains, fire hydrants and an adequate source of water should be provided as early as possible. If any of the sprinkler systems must be taken out of service during construction, an impairment program should be established to ensure all sprinkler protection is restored to service at days end.

Disposal of Rubbish

A regular schedule of combustible rubbish removal should be established and followed. Particular attention is necessary for materials subject to spontaneous ignition such as oily waste and rags, linseed oil or other flammable/combustible liquids.

Hot Work

Hot work operations such as torch use, metal cutting/grinding and welding procedures are the leading causes of fires during construction. The Person in Charge of fire safety should ensure that an adequate Hot Work Permit program is in existing and is followed for all contractors on-site.

Construction Shed

Construction sheds are necessary for storage of tools as well as construction materials. If possible, the shed should be non-combustible. Sheds should be spaced as least 50 ft. from the main building under construction and at least 30 ft. from each other.

Equipment Storage

Temporary storage of valuable equipment should be stored in sprinklered areas of the building, if possible. If sprinkler protection is not in service, the equipment should be sub-divided in separate areas of the construction site.

Temporary Heaters

When construction takes places during cooler weather, heaters are commonly used. Most are heated by natural gas, propane or kerosene. The heaters should be a safe distance from all combustible material. An employee should be assigned to ensure the heating equipment is being operated in accordance with the manufacturers specifications.

Hose & Extinguishers

Hose equipment should be provided and connected to the water source as soon as possible. When the use of hose is impractical, an ample number of hand held fire extinguishers should be provided.

Watch Service

Construction and demolition sites can also be subject to vandalism, incendiarism and theft. Watch service should be provided during all non-working periods.

Flammable Liquids Handling

Paints, thinners, gasoline and asphalt are very common on construction/demolition sites. All general safeguards should be followed with respect to handling, storage and dispensing of each.

Smoking

Smoking should be prohibited near all combustibles as well as during flammable liquid dispensing and fueling operations.

Wind

Wind related losses are second only to fire losses during construction. Construction should be planned such that adequate bracing is provided to a building frame as soon as possible after erection.

The following table indicates the top ten perils associated with construction/demolition projects during a ten-year period:

Peril
Number of Occurrences
Fire
290
Wind or Hail
286
Water-Liquid Damage
137
Theft
109
Collapse
103
Sprinkler Leakage
83
Riot & Civil Commotion
72
Escaped Liquids Damage
40
Surface Water
25
Rigging
20


Risk Logic, Inc. can be of assistance during new construction, renovations or demolition of buildings. We can ensure that all the above safeguards are being followed in an effort to avoid a major property loss.