Construction Site Fire and General Safety

By Kanterman, Ronald E. | Occupational Hazards, January 1995 | Go to article overview

Construction Site Fire and General Safety

Kanterman, Ronald E., Occupational Hazards

AS THE INDIVIDUAL RESPONSIBLE for your company's fire protection program, you arrive for the construction project design meeting on time, daily planner in hand, and await the engineering staff and other members of the plant's administration.

While the project engineer starts to drone on about funding, contractors, safety and all the other aspects of a major building project, your eyes become fixed on the "artist's rendition" of the project hanging at the front of the room. It's a four-story process building, 80-by-200 feet.

When the project engineer mentions "fire protection features," you snap out of your reverie. As you pay closer attention to the specifics, you realize that this will be a 2-year project from the time they start to grade the area until the first process gets rolling.

Though these projects are done all of the time inside and outside of industrial properties, that doesn't diminish their impact on your operations. Construction adds truck traffic and personnel, as well as new demands for parking, security and the like. You'll need to keep access roads clear for normal and emergency traffic. Each manager or sub-manager must do his or her part to ensure that the building will get built with a minimum amount of disruption.

What follows is a breakdown of areas to consider regarding fire and general safety during construction on an industrial site.

Safety Orientation

All contract personnel entering the site should be required to go through a safety orientation. Some companies show a short video about the site's policies and procedures, then give out a pamphlet and follow it with a short 10-question test based on the film and the booklet. This not only reinforces your policies, but helps you document the training and gives you the clout you may need down the road in the event a person flagrantly violates procedures and is asked to leave the site. Any method by which you can inform the contract worker that there are rules and these rules must be followed is fine, as long as it's cost effective, quick and easy.

Remember that there must be a firm foundation of fire safety and general safety on the site for all permanent employees before you can preach to the contractors. You must show credibility to the outside people in order for your mandates to be taken seriously. Tell them what is expected of all personnel on the site, no matter who they are paid by. The site's safety policy for permanent employees and the safety policy for contract employees should compliment each other.

General Safety Guidelines

Consider establishing the following programs/systems to promote and project general safety on the site.

CONTRACTOR VIOLATIONS PROGRAM. While this may sound harsh at first, such a program puts contract personnel on notice that they will be monitored for fire and safety infractions. Lay out the ground rules that serious infractions may cause that person or firm to be removed from the site and possibly from bidding on future jobs for the company. The project engineer, safety staff, security or other site departments may be involved in this monitoring program.

SELF-AUDIT SYSTEM. Under this program, the contractor appoints a safety director to oversee the job. The safety director is responsible for holding safety meetings, reporting accidents and near-misses and acting as a liaison with the safety, security and site emergency services departments. This person will also be the point of contact for OSHA or other outside agencies who inspect the construction site. (Upon entering the gate to your facility, these agencies should be escorted by a representative of the company at all times even if they are there only in connection with the construction project.)

Hazardous Work and Permit Systems

These systems include the following:

HOT WORK AND BURNING. Hot work is a major source of accidents on a construction site. All hot work should be done through a permit system, whether administered by the site safety department, the fire brigade or the project engineers themselves. …

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