Most constructions sites are rich with potential fire hazards. Ordinary construction activities, such as wiring electricity, welding or torching, often produce sparks or intense heat that can increase the risk of fire. This risk is further escalated when flammable or combustible materials, such as propane gas or paint thinners, are within the vicinity. If proper safety precautions are not taken, a fire outbreak can occur, potentially resulting in serious injury or death to site workers.
An estimated 4,800 fires occur on construction sites across the U.S. each year, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). That’s approximately 13 fires per day.
While this figure may seem surprisingly low given the abundance of construction sites around the country, when you consider the gravity of the injuries that can result from these fires, it’s not low enough.
Construction site fires can cause severe burns, lung/respiratory damage, disfigurement, and broken bones and internal injuries from falling debris. Workers who sustain fire-related injuries can face months – or years – of painful surgeries and rehabilitation, as well as acute mental anguish. Sometimes workers suffer permanent disabilities. And about 36 workers a year die from construction site fires or explosions.
Operators of construction sites have an unshakable duty to identify fire hazards and minimize the risk of fire outbreak. When someone is injured or killed because the site operators failed in their duty, those operators should be held accountable.
Key fire prevention measures include:
- Keeping the secure site. FEMA reports that 71% of all construction site fires are caused by arson. Employers should lower the risk of arson by maintaining after-hours security and surveillance, using perimeter fencing to prevent access to the site, and otherwise controlling all points of entry.
- Removing fire hazards near hot work. Construction work often involves using open flame, welding, brazing or cutting, all of which can produce flames, sparks or slag. Before such hot work begins, all flammable or combustible materials should be removed from the area in which the work is taking place to avoid construction accidents.
- Appointing fire watchers. If the flammable/combustible materials and hot work cannot be distanced from one another, a person should be appointed to watch the hot works and stand ready to fight any fire that may develop. If a fire watcher isn’t available, then the hot work should not be performed.
- Providing adequate firefighting equipment. Construction sites should have well-distributed, conspicuously-placed, firefighting equipment (including fire extinguishers, hoses, and water) on every level of the site. Such equipment should be in proper working condition and inspected regularly.
- Ensuring correct storage of fuel sources. The presence of flammable or combustible materials, or even piles of rubbish, can cause fire to spread very quickly. Employers should promptly remove all unnecessary fuel source from the site. Fuel sources that must remain on-site should be in an appropriate, clearly labeled storage room or container.
- Developing a fire safety plan. Every employer should have a well-developed fire safety plan and all workers should be trained in fire safety procedures. In addition, employers should hold periodic fire evacuation drills, ensure that evacuation routes are well-marked, and review fire safety plans and equipment with the local Fire Department.
The California construction site fire lawyers at the Appel Law Firm LLP represent victims who have been injured in construction site fires in the Walnut Creek area and across California.