Mac’s Safety Space: Fires and construction—doing a good job even better

By Steve MacArthur, Hospital Safety Consultant

Interesting item came through the e-transom today—an NFPA report on fires as a function of construction activities (you can find the link to download the report—after sharing some info—here: ). While it is certainly the case that healthcare is doing a good job in managing the risks of fire during construction, there still appears to be an opportunity for improvement, small thought it may be.

As you might imagine, the causes are many and varied (as such things tend to be), but I think it underscores the importance of keeping close watch on those traditional “flash points” (small pun intended): hot work, disposal of combustibles materials, electrical fires, use of portable heating units, etc.

As I have noted in practice over the years (though perhaps not here specifically), there are few more risky propositions in the physical environment than performing construction and/or renovation activities adjacent to occupied patient care spaces. While infection control and prevention considerations are of paramount importance (and likely the risks that will manifest themselves most clearly), the management of life safety risks, including the practical application of interim or alternative life safety measures, seems to be becoming something of a lost art.

In general, healthcare is in no way immune to the impact of fires, which only heightens the need to take into account egress, fire protection and suppression systems, and ensuring rated assemblies are appropriately maintained, not only in general, but particularly during construction/renovation activities.

To that end, I did want to point you towards an article from a little bit ago in ASHE’s Health Facilities Management magazine. Penned by Chad Beebe, the article discusses the importance (and provides some insight into) of repairing fire-rated assemblies. I think it’s worth checking out, if you have not done so already: .

I have no reason to think that construction areas won’t be a high-priority target in upcoming surveys, so keep a close watch on those modification methodologies!

About the Author: Steve MacArthur is a safety consultant with Chartis Clinical Quality Solutions (formerly known as The Greeley Company) in Danvers, Mass. He brings more than 30 years of healthcare management and consulting experience to his work with hospitals, physician offices, and ambulatory care facilities across the country. He is the author of HCPro's Hospital Safety Director's Handbook and is contributing editor for Healthcare Safety Leader. Contact Steve at