Most people understand the exposure to fire in occupied buildings. However, they may not be aware of the increased hazards resulting from the construction process for new building projects, renovations or demolitions. According to research from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), “local fire departments responded to an average of 3,840 fires from new construction operations and 2,580 fires from renovation operations annually from 2013 to 2017.”
Unfortunately, these fires often result in millions of dollars in property damages and even loss of life. Standards such as the NFPA 241 have been developed to protect your organization from loss due to fire.
Construction Risk Factors & Their Impact on Fire Safety
When a building is under any type of construction, alteration, or demolition, there are various fire-related dangers that are not present when a structure is completed.
These dangers include:
- Fire protection equipment such as sprinklers, smoke detectors and fire alarms that are typically not installed or operational.
- Firewalls are often not complete or do not have necessary firestops until the later stages of a project.
- Buildings undergoing renovation or demolition may have many components of the fire protection systems disabled or removed.
- Projects under construction may not have strong security measures in place. This can lead to vandalism, theft and even arson.
- Construction sites typically have more ignition sources, such as:
- Temporary heaters
- Electrical cords
- Electrical wiring
- Temporary lighting
- Hot work (welding, cutting, grinding, soldering, etc.)
- Increased fire loads such as wood, combustible, and flammable materials.
- Limitations on fire department response due to materials around the building and blocked access roads, delayed notification, and haphazard storage within the building.
These characteristics increase the risk of a fire and the chances of it spreading more rapidly, leaving vulnerable buildings and the structures surrounding them more susceptible to loss.
What is the NFPA 241 Standard?
The NFPA 241 standard was established in 1933. It’s seen over 16 editions over the years and is required in 42 states. NFPA 241 provides measures for preventing or minimizing fire damage to structures during construction, renovation, or demolition, including those in underground locations.
This standard designates specific responsibilities to the property owner as well as the construction team. These responsibilities are in effect whenever a building is undergoing construction, renovation, or demolition.
There are two types of NFPA 241 written plans, both of which are required to ensure code compliance during construction:
- Master NFPA 241 Program – Developed by the owner (often by a contracted fire protection consultant). This plan outlines all owner responsibilities and identifies the roles and responsibilities of the owner and general contractor during construction, renovation and/or demolition.
- Project Specific NFPA 241 Plan – Developed by the general contractor. This plan addresses concerns related to the project and specific fire safety control measures related to construction, renovation, and/or demolition.
Ultimately, the property owner is responsible for maintaining a safe environment, including during construction. These NFPA 241 plans provide the most practical means to ensure compliance with the standard and clearly designate the responsibilities of all parties. The property owner can ensure legal obligations are met and delegated while also reducing unsafe work practices and potential delays.
The following fire safety elements are included in NFPA 241:
- Program manager responsibilities
- Temporary offices and sheds
- Hot work safe practices
- Temporary heating equipment
- Waste disposal and trash chute safety
- Flammable and combustible liquids and gasses
- Explosive materials
- Firefighting access
- Means of egress
- Scaffolding, shoring and forms
- Construction materials and equipment storage
- Building separation walls and fire doors
- Temporary separation walls
- Safeguarding for roofing, demolition and underground operations
RCM&D Can Help
If you are a building owner, property manager or contractor involved in the operation, construction, alteration and/or demolition of a property, you have a vested interest in protecting lives and property.
RCM&D has the programs, best practices, training and assessment tools to help clients mitigate construction fire risks on their property and protect their people and assets.
Talk to a trusted advisor today for more on NFPA 241 and what RCM&D can do for your organization.