Buildings under construction present a significant fire hazard for construction workers and citizens living within close proximity of the project site. Project site fires aren’t as rare as you might believe. Fire Engineering recently reported some astonishing annual statistics about project site fires, including:
- 3,750 fires in buildings in varying phases of construction
- 2,650 fires in buildings being renovated
- 2,130 fires in buildings undergoing demolition
These shocking figures showcase a severe lack in understanding of the dangers of fires on the project site. In this two-part series, the Birmingham construction lawyers at Cotney Construction Law will detail ways contractors can prevent fires from causing injuries or fatalities. If workers are ever injured in a fire on your project site, consult a Birmingham construction lawyer for assistance handling workers’ compensation claims.
Suggestions from the Fire Service
Experts on handling fires have suggested that the construction industry take heed of their specialized counsel and strive to revise building and fire codes to identify and prevent common causes of ignition, build strong relationships with various entities within the fire service, and inform workers about the most effective emergency response protocols.
International Fire Code Revisions
Some organizations are keen to lend to their knowledge and expertise to the construction industry, such as the National Association of State Fire Marshals (NASFM), the Fire and Life Safety Section of the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), and the American Wood Council. These groups all contributed to key revisions in the 2021 edition of the International Fire Code. These proposals were submitted via the International Code Council’s (ICC’s) Fire Code Action Committee. This committee is composed of IAFC, NASFM, and ICC appointees. In other words, the brightest minds in fire safety and prevention come together to publish their findings in the International Fire Code. Contractors should consult this document when they have fire-related questions. Updates to this code include:
- Reinforced requirements regarding the fire safety plans for construction projects. For small projects, a one-page form with information on the owner and general contractor, fire department contact and to-do list, and evacuation protocols will suffice. Larger projects may require decidedly more complex plans that include information about fire security, hot work programs, evacuation signals, and more.
- The right to employ an optional “fire watch” for jurisdictions that deem it necessary. This can include both active and inactive periods on the project site.
- New requirements calling for a site safety director on every project site.
- Additional training for site safety directors and fire watch personnel to bolster competency.
To learn more about fire safety on the project site, read part two.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.