5 Things to Consider in Jobsite Safety

July 1, 2007
Responsive owners must develop clear and concise safety guidelines for any construction project - large or small

Nothing is more important on your construction site than life safety. Such focus might include strict no-smoking and no-truck-idling policies on every site. Among the most important considerations for jobsite life safety are access to emergency exits, emergency vehicle access, close consultation with the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ), air-quality control, and signage.

1. Access to Emergency Exits
Materials are delivered to your jobsite, moved, and disposed of constantly, and you know that housekeeping is a never-ending job. But, no housekeeping is more important than ensuring that emergency exits are always unobstructed. Occasionally, an area with emergency exits needs to be blocked off and occupants need to be rerouted to the next best egress. When this happens, materials tend to accumulate nearby. Before you open or re-open any emergency exit, double check that everything obstructing the exit has been removed.

2. Access for Emergency Vehicles
You are required to maintain uninterrupted access to your construction site for emergency vehicles. If a delivery vehicle or anything else is blocking the emergency vehicle access route even briefly, you need to open an alternate route that provides the same level of ready access for emergency vehicles, including large fire trucks. Set up this alternate route at the same time you set up your main route - at the very beginning of the project - and have your AHJ sign off on it.

3. Authority Having Jurisdiction
Ask your AHJ to review your life-safety plans before construction begins (for example, during and after the permitting process or during the drawing review). Your whole team needs to be apprised of the plans, so be sure to coordinate meetings with the owner, design team, construction managers, and construction safety officers. Keep your AHJ up to date on any changes affecting the original plan that he or she approved, and always think of the AHJ as a valuable resource to help ensure safety for everyone at the site. Don't forget to include other authorities in the process, such as a campus life-safety officer at a university.

4. Air-Quality Control
Construction and renovation can generate airborne dust, dirt, odors, and fumes that can compromise safety, especially at sensitive sites like hospitals. Always isolate construction areas with temporary partitions that are smoke-tight and non-combustible. Also, make sure you maintain one-way airflow out of occupied areas and into construction areas. Consider using HEPA filters, fans, and other equipment to maintain negative pressure in the construction area and clean air in occupied areas. You may also want to consider using wall-mounted magnehelic gauges to monitor air-pressure differentials.

5. Signage
Clear and concise signage is critical for life safety. When construction activities temporarily block off an emergency-escape route, make sure you immediately establish new routes and clearly mark them, and post highly visible, up-to-date escape routes. And, always make sure that emergency contact information is posted at several high-traffic locations on your site.

Tom Perry is director, engineering services division, at Shawmut Design and Construction (www.shawmut.com), Boston.

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