Recent changes to NFPA 241, the standard for Safeguarding Construction, Alteration, and Demolition Operations, may affect your next construction project. Some of these revisions include installing an automatic sprinkler system that conforms to the requirements of the FPPP (Fire Prevention Program), improved signage for sprinkler systems, and additional communication with the fire department, such as providing fire personnel with site plans that include the location of water valves that can be turned on in the event of a fire or other emergency.
The most impactful change in terms of large-scale fire protection is the ability to install temporary sprinkler systems in buildings under construction that don’t yet comply with NFPA codes and standards. The point of this change is to create a temporary solution like getting an operational sprinkler system installed without requiring compliancy.
There are many moving parts on a worksite, from welding to electrical work, making these high fire hazard areas.
In an article published in the NFPA Journal entitled “Safety First,” the author discusses the vulnerability of a construction site, noting: “These sites are notoriously rife with fuel, including piles of trash and excess building materials. Combine that with no shortage of ignition sources, ranging from heating and cooking equipment to welding and other hot-work activities, as well as the fact that fire protection systems like sprinklers may not yet be active. It can all add up to an environment primed for a devastating fire.”
In many cases, these sites are not yet equipped with fully functioning fire protection systems, and that’s a problem. In a high fire risk area, there are surprisingly few ways to fight a large-scale fire. The result? According to the latest NFPA Report, “Fires in Structure Under Construction or Renovation,” between 2013-2017 there were 3,840 fires in structures under construction and 2,580 fires in structures under major renovation. Damages because of fires at construction sites may include damage to the overall structure, damage to machinery and equipment, and of course severe delays or cancellation of the project.
Changes for Safety
With increased awareness of new construction safety and the need for more regulation and code enforcement, the updated 2022 edition of NFPA 241 includes changes intended to ease the implementation of the standard. One of the core changes to this standard, “allows for sprinkler systems temporarily installed in buildings under construction to not comply with NFPA codes and standards—namely, NFPA 13, Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems.” The reason for this update is to have some sort of fire protection should a fire occur during construction. Expediting dry sprinkler system installation will be an important change. It is important to note this system should be considered temporary; it’s necessary to follow up and ensure the sprinkler system is brought up to code as needed.
Other proposed changes to the standard include the expansion of building-specific requirements to 17 (current requirement is eight) to the fire prevention program, or FPP, and the fire prevention program manager, or FPPM.
A data sheet released by The National Safety Council, “Fire Prevention and Control on Construction Sites,” outlines several ways construction companies and business/building owners can prevent construction fires. The most important is having a fire protection plan in place before the project even begins. Implementation of this plan is essential for fire prevention.
The National Safety Council suggests that responsibilities are laid out within the plan and that the plan is shared with all contractors and subcontractors. Some details of this plan may include how/where to store flammable and combustible liquids, where to store surplus materials/supplies, and the location of any containers necessary for the proper disposal of flammable materials. Fire prevention inspections should be conducted by the assigned person responsible for fire prevention. A copy of periodic inspection reports should be given to project management.
The National Safety Council has provided a fact sheet as a helpful resource:
Other ways to prevent or lessen your chances of fire while your building is under construction is to have ways to fight the type of fires that may occur. This means equipping teams with working fire extinguishers that are intended for the types of fires you’d likely encounter on a work site. For example, Class C extinguishers are intended to extinguish fires involving electrical equipment while Class B extinguishers are designed for combustible or flammable liquids. And make sure anyone on the worksite has been trained in how to use a portable fire extinguisher.
Problems with Code Enforcement
A common problem with NFPA 241 is that many AHJs don’t always properly enforce the standard as it’s not as commonly used as other standards dealing with building codes. Why? According to a recent article in the NFPA Journal, there’s a fear that code enforcement could slow the pace of construction and delay the project and raise the cost of building. There’s also a fear of higher construction costs.
While it’s a detailed standard, it’s incredibly necessary. When you start with safety, you mitigate risk as the project progresses. It’s all about prevention and attention to safety from the beginning. NFPA recommends builders, AHJs, and business owners see this code enforcement as an investment in your building and business rather than a time-consuming hindrance.
Out of Compliance
What happens if an AHJ finds a construction site to be out of compliance with NFPA 241? Are you as the business owner responsible? The construction crew? Compliancy issues, as well as issues with fire safety, can be hard to navigate and responsibility can shift depending on the situation. Fire Systems, Inc. is your trusted source for information on compliancy and local fire codes. Fire Systems can also install the appropriate sprinkler system to follow the new adjustments to the new edition of the NFPA 241 standard. We can also be your fire protection company to service and repair your sprinkler system for the longevity of your business. Contact us today at 770-333-7979 or visit our website for more information.