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A Residential Home Builder’s Role In Preventing Fire and Fire Damage

A Residential Home Builder’s Role In Preventing Fire and Fire Damage

A house can easily catch fire. A week of hot, dry weather, a mishap in the kitchen, a curious child–it really doesn’t take much.

When it comes to preventing a fire from occurring or limiting the damage a fire can do to a home, there are measures that can be taken well before the homeowner even moves in.

Therefore, as a residential home planner, designer, architect, or builder, you play an important role in preventing home fires and fire damage. Constructing a home with the right materials, landscaping, and other firewise features can give the home a far better chance at withstanding a fire.

Measures A Residential Home Builder Can Take To Prevent Fire Damage

A Detached Garage Can Make All The Difference

Many fires in residential areas begin as vehicle fires. When a vehicle fire occurs in an outbuilding like a garage or storage shed where flammable materials like paint thinners and gasoline are often stored, it’s a recipe for disaster.

By keeping garages detached and storage sheds well separated (30 feet is the preferred minimum) from the main house, fires and the loss suffered from a fire can be prevented.

Fire Protection From The Top Down

Illegal fireworks, lightning strikes, chimney fires, sparks or other debris from a neighboring fire, arson–unfortunately, the opportunities for a fire to start on the roof of a home are endless and not that far fetched.

Organizations that test fire-resistant building materials have classified roofing materials as follows:

  • Class A materials are the most resistant (typically shingles containing fiberglass) and can withstand severe outside fire exposure.
  • Class B materials are less resistant and can withstand moderate outside fire exposure.
  • Class C materials (typically organic, like wood) are the least resistant and can withstand only mild outside fire exposure.

By installing materials that offer a high degree of fire resistance, you can help prevent fires from igniting on the roof and burning through an entire home. Some of the best materials for roofing:

  • Asphalt shingles
  • Recycled rubber tiles
  • Clay or concrete tiles
  • Slate
  • Metal (copper, steel, zinc, stainless steel)

A few other things you can recommend homeowners do to keep their roof safe from fire include:

  • Keeping tree branches trimmed away from the roof.
  • Maintaining clean gutters (clear of debris that can fuel a fire).
  • Properly cleaning and operating the chimney and/or fireplace.

Screen possible entry points

To keep flaming materials from getting into critical areas of a home like attics, crawlspaces, and ductwork, all ventwork and vent openings should be constructed of metal products and have corrosive-resistant metal mesh screens.

Plan outdoor living spaces with care

Wood decks often provide fuel for fires and can be the reason an entire home burns. If you do use wood, it should be treated against fire. Better yet, consider building outdoor living areas with more fire-resistant building materials like stone or decorative concrete.

Today’s homeowners tend to value a home that is not only visually appealing but is structurally safe too. Concrete can add a fresh and unique look while also bringing durability and strength to an outdoor residential area.

Armor exterior and interior walls

When it comes to the exterior of a home, non-flammable materials such as fiber-cement siding, cultured stone, brick, or stucco are best. Avoid untreated wood and know that vinyl siding may be ok as long as a fire cannot find a route to burn too close to the house. All gaps and crevices beneath the vinyl must be sealed (or fire will find its way into the structure).

ICF (Insulated Concrete Forms)

ICF or insulated concrete form walls are becoming a popular option for multi-family residential builders. Not only do they make the building process quicker and easier, but they also create a structure that is durable, efficient, and safe.

See the side by side below that compares insulated concrete forms to conventional wood framing created by Build With Strength, a coalition of the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association.

home fire safety concrete forms

The system is made up of polystyrene blocks that fit together like legos to form a house’s shell. Filled with concrete–one of the most fire-and heat-resistant construction materials–ICFs create solid, insulated walls that can block anything out.

ICF walls have been known to withstand fire for up to four hours. While they can cost anywhere from 1-4% more than what you would pay for a wood frame house with no built-in fire protection, the many long-term benefits to ICFs are worth it in many homeowners’ eyes.

How You Can Actually Profit From Hazard Mitigation

As a company involved in the building industry, we understand that making a profit is your top priority. But do you place the safety and overall longevity of the structures you build high on your priority list too?

While the initial cost of investing in high quality, durable materials and resilient building techniques (hazard mitigation) may seem high, it can actually save more money in the long run. Researchers at MIT created the break-even percentage model to help those involved in the building process calculate the right amount to invest in hazard mitigation. Watch the video below to see what they found.

 

 

Using concrete as a building material on top of flame-resistant roofing, siding and the other fire preventative or safety measures listed will make for one safe residential building. There is no question about it–concrete is a resilient building material. While concrete has fire-resistant benefits, it can also help a building stand up against a number of other damaging conditions.

Need a concrete ready-mix for your next project? Download our Concrete Checklist: Get The Best Ready-Mix For Your Project. Your download will provide you with expert advice to make the ordering process easier, a guide to determining the PSI required of your mix, and an explanation of the other features you mix might need to include.

csc checklist guide

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home fire safety check
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Concrete Construction Hazards With Solutions From OSHA

Concrete Construction Hazards and Our Solutions From OSHA

Like many labor-intensive jobs, there are a few occupational safety hazards of working in the concrete construction industry.

At Concrete Supply Co., we believe you, your co-workers, supervisors, and project managers should take the necessary steps to eliminate the potential dangers that exist on your worksite. Our goal is to ensure each worksite is safe for all.

Keep in mind, even the most basic of concrete worksites can be filled with safety hazards.

Throughout our 60 years in the residential, commercial, and DOT concrete construction industries, we’ve become very familiar with the hazards that exist on site. With that being said, we’ve also become accustomed to following OSHA’s specific concrete construction guidelines in order to avoid hazards and keep the site safe.

When it comes time to start your next concrete construction job, plan ahead in a way that prevents the following hazards:

  1. Chemical burns
  2. Respiratory irritation, illness, or infection
  3. Injuries for improper lifting
  4. Form blowout
  5. Injuries from falling objects
  6. Falls from elevated platforms
  7. Vehicle accidents

Then, implement the guidelines mandated by OSHA to solve or eliminate the concrete industry hazard from your work zone.

Irritation, Dermatitis, and Burns

Any type of direct contact with wet concrete can quickly lead to skin irritation, dermatitis, or worse, a chemical burn.

Think about it–as concrete hardens it absorbs moisture. The chemicals in cement pull moisture out of anything to aid in the drying process.

When cement pulls the moisture from skin, it leaves behind severely damage skin cells. Once concrete hardens, if left untreated, the skin will begin to blister, swell, and bleed, eventually becoming a second to third-degree burn.

The most severe cases of skin coming in direct contact with concrete have led to scarring, the need for skin grafts, and even amputations. And the harmful effects of skin coming in direct contact with concrete are only worsened when admixtures are introduced to the concrete mixture.

OSHA reports that concrete workers in the U.S. lose four times as many workdays for skin problems compared to other construction trade workers.   

If you or your crew are working with fresh concrete, extreme care should be taken to avoid and treat skin irritation and/or chemical burns. Always wear protective equipment such as waterproof apparel, tall boots, alkali-resistant gloves, long pants, and long sleeves while on site. If skin irritation persists or in the case of a deep burn, seek medical attention immediately.   

OSHA also mandates that employers must supply workers with alkali-resistant gloves and coveralls, as well as provide access to emergency washing stations in order to avoid burns from contact with wet concrete and cement.

Find more of OSHA’s respiratory protection guidelines.

Respiratory Irritation

Exposure to dust from dry concrete mixtures can irritate the respiratory system, leading to various infections and illnesses. In the short term, inhaling concrete dust can irritate the nose and throat making it difficult to breathe.

Know that dust from sanding, grinding, cutting, pouring, and mixing concrete can find its way into the air you and your crew breath.

Therefore, OSHA requires employers to provide persons who perform or are in the area of any of the previously mentioned actions with suitable respiratory protective equipment. This equipment can include a P-, N- or R-95 respirator or face mask to minimize inhalation of cement-related air pollution on site.

When you mix your own concrete on the job site, there is an increased risk for breathing it in. You can prevent the likelihood of breathing a mix’s dust in by having a supplier, like Concrete Supply Co. create the mix in their controlled plant and then delivering it to your site by truck. See the various project’s we’ve safely mixed and delivered ready-mixes to in the past.

Improper Lifting Injuries

While injuries from lifting are common on construction sites, they tend to be especially common with concrete construction due to improper lifting techniques. At about 150 pounds per cubic foot, even a small piece of concrete can weigh enough to cause serious, long-term damage.

Safe lifting procedures and load-carrying techniques will almost always prevent painful and expensive injuries on the job site. When moving items over 50 pounds, use a forklift or lift the load with another individual on the job site. If you must move heavy objects manually, lower and lift with the knees, not the back, and avoid twisting while carrying heavy items.

OSHA encourages employers to train employees on how to lift safely and to implement effective ergonomic (the science of designing the job, equipment, and workspace to fit the worker) programs. Doing so will help ensure a workplace free of hazards.

Read more on how OSHA recommends preventing lifting injuries.

Vehicle Accidents

Often a concrete construction site requires large, heavy-duty pieces of construction equipment and vehicles to operate within a tight work zone–a disaster waiting to happen. When vehicles and other types of mobile equipment are operated improperly by untrained workers, the risk of injuries or even fatalities in the work zone is possible.

It should be known that working on a highly active site is serious. This is not the place for anyone to cut corners or cheat on safety. Encourage your workers to remain highly vigilant and always pay attention. This will vehicle accidents to a minimum.

According to OSHA, you can further prevent concrete construction site accidents by:

  • Allowing only workers who are extensively trained to operate equipment. (If a trained worker is not available, bring in an experienced outside professional for concrete pours and other specialty work.)
  • Supplying workers with high-visibility safety apparel.
  • Using temporary traffic barriers throughout the workspace to notify drivers of clearances, speed limits, duration and type of operations, volume of traffic, etc.
  • Planning and setting up the work area in a way that allows for any possible type of maneuvers. (Consider the size of any construction vehicles or equipment that may enter the site.)
  • See more from OSHA on site vehicle safety.

When it comes to any concrete vehicle-related operations, be sure they are conducted under the direct supervision of a competent supervisor.

Form blow-out

When using concrete formworks, blow-outs are a very scary but oh-so-real possibility.

The term “blow-out” refers to a break in the form. Form blow-out is due to the pressure from liquid concrete during the concrete placement and consolidation. A blow-out can result in catastrophic effects not only on the structure itself, but injuring workers who may have been working on the structure.  

OSHA states that formwork shall be designed, fabricated, erected, supported, braced and maintained so that it will be capable of supporting without failure all vertical and lateral loads that may reasonably be anticipated to be applied to the formwork.

Find a Supplier Who Mitigates Concrete Construction Hazards and Adheres to OSHA Standards

While the listed are general concrete industry hazards, every worksite should have a competent individual or team of individuals responsible for performing an assessment of the site-specific hazards and measures that should be taken to limit them.

Site management should be responsible for ensuring all equipment is routinely serviced and maintained in a safe condition. This is done by conducting periodic on-site inspections of operations, and providing operation and safety training for relevant employees. Site supervisors should continuously observe operation safety, provide immediate corrective training for all unsafe acts, and conduct pre-pour inspections. Employees and crew members should follow all safety and operational procedures and immediately notify supervision of all unsafe conditions. Together you can maintain a safe working environment. 

The reality is, hazards exist on any concrete construction site. But there are steps you can take to control and limit incidents–keeping your entire team safe. Take a look at Safety Data Sheets for Concrete Supply Co. which outline our specific safety practices on our site.

If site safety is a top priority of yours, you should find a concrete supplier who also values safety. Safety is something that is sure to come up during the pre-qualification process. See our guide to pre-qualifying suppliers for more important qualities to look for in a concrete supplier.

Download The Contractors Guide To Pre-Qualifying Suppliers

 

Feel free to contact an experienced project manager on the Concrete Supply Co. team. We would be happy to discuss how we can help you limit the hazards and dangers lurking on your site. Contact us today!

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hard hats for safety on a concrete construction site
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