Contractor Fire Safety

Buildings under construction have a greater potential for significant property damage from fire, especially before fire suppression systems are installed and operational.

With walls often not yet complete, void spaces can create a wind tunnel effect during a fire, intensifying the flames. Firefighters may be unable to safely enter unfinished buildings, which may have unprotected stairwells and other dangerous conditions. Often, they have to take a defensive position to contain the fire to the construction site.

Hot work operations pose a significant risk because they can introduce ignition sources into many areas of the work site. Even many hours after welding, soldering, grinding or other hot work has been completed, a spark can smolder and ignite combustibles, sometimes after crews have left for the evening. Contractors must ensure they are utilizing either their own program or the SMU Hot Work Program.

Unsecured construction sites may be at risk of vandalism, theft and arson. Having a layered approach to security, including perimeter controls, fencing, lighting, and electronic intrusion detection systems, can help reduce the risk of unauthorized entry to the site.

While having a break area on-site is acceptable, workers should not be allowed to bring any cooking equipment, such as grills, hot plates or small microwave ovens, to the construction site.

All flammable and combustible liquids and gases should be used and stored so that they do not present a fire hazard to the site. Limit the amount of flammable and combustible materials inside the building under construction and designate safe storage locations.

Until fire sprinklers are activated, having fire extinguishers distributed throughout the site, standpipes for firefighting equipment and identified proximity to fire hydrants closest to the work site, can also help firefighters contain fires and minimize damage. Where provided, automatic sprinklers should be activated as soon as practical as construction progresses.

Cordless tools and other battery-run equipment present risks of overheating and igniting fires. Charging stations should be outside the building under construction and stored in a safe location.

Smoking presents a serious fire risk to any construction site. A strict “no smoking” policy that is clearly communicated to all employees and subcontractors, and providing a designated safe smoking area, help prevent the risks of fire due to ash or carelessly discarded cigarettes.

All temporary electrical service lighting should be installed in accordance with National Electric Code (NEC) standards. Systems and lighting should be maintained and regularly inspected by the electrical contractor.

All temporary heaters should be UL Listed and used in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions. Maintain safe distances from combustible materials and never allow others to bring temporary heaters onto job sites without approval.