3 Construction Fire Safety Issues [After-hours]

At a recent meeting of the Construction Fire Safety Partnership a group of individuals representing different components of the A/O/C/E & Enforcement community. Two members of the fire services community brought up valuable information that I think is worth sharing and learning from. 

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Fire Marshal Dempsey brought to everyone’s attention that during various weekend responses Boston Fire has run into multiple issues regarding operating personnel hoist equipment to access emergencies. As a result stakeholders were informed that personnel hoists are required to be reviewed by the the local fire department prior to being certified by the state elevator inspector. (See attached section of the Massachusetts Amendment to 524 CMR, a.k.a. “the elevator code.”) Upon initial completion of installation and prior to placing each elevator used for construction into service, a representative of the installing company and the operating company shall meet with the fire department having jurisdiction to review the operation of each elevator. The fire department having jurisdiction will leave written proof of the review upon completion and this document will be needed for the elevator to pass the initial inspection as well as subsequent inspections with the Division.

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Another scenario affecting our sites after hours is attending to temporary heating equipment off-hours. There was a response to an issue with a salamander heater. It was unclear whether there was malfunction or an issue with separation distance, but nevertheless the issue happened when the heater was running outside of normal job-site hours and is an important reminder that temporary heating equipment needs to be overseen at all times during off-hours conditions, as noted below: 

Boston Fire Prevention Code

Section 7.11 — Temporary Heating Equipment

Temporary heating equipment in buildings and structures under construction, repair, or alteration shall comply with applicable law, regulations, ordinances, or approved reference standards. Temporary heaters, fuel supplies, and refueling practices shall be subject to specific approval by the Head of the Fire Department. They shall be provided with chimney or vent connectors. They shall be designed so that they are not readily overturned and are provided with clearances to combustible material, equipment, or construction, as required for the specific type of appliance. An employee qualified to operate the heating equipment shall be on duty at all times whenever temporary heaters are being utilized, to supervise the operation and maintenance of such heaters.

A third issue of significance was site signage. Responding personnel were in a condition where a valve needed to be opened in order to operate an existing standpipe, but without appropriate signage the fire department had to resort to fire extinguishers to put out the fire. The last example was a response to a fire caused by a tool battery charger. Let’s remember to store battery charging equipment properly and away from combustibles. Thankfully no one was injured and only property damage occurred, but the lesson is clear that fire safety is not only about when your jobs are active and not only about the workers. Responding personnel and the public need to be accounted for in your plans and actions.

Some valuable information to remember in off-hours conditions:

  • Signage (notifying location and directions for operation of critical systems or hazardous conditions)
  • Command Post with appropriate equipment, documentation, & information (keys, drawings, phone numbers, etc. See NFPA 241)

Find out more about NFPA 241

Lt. Chris Towski brought up a number of potential changes to NFPA 241. Listen to the recent podcast to hear about those changes. Thanks to Lt. Towski for providing the section of the elevator code above.

Author: Joe Kelly

Website builder and podcaster for people who dig construction 🔨 🚧

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