Construction Site Fire Safety Regulation

All buildings under construction are required to be free from fire. This includes buildings under alteration and demolition. Both the Massachusetts State Building Code and the Massachusetts State Fire Code have provisions for achieving maximum fire safety and both refer to NFPA 241 Standard for Safeguarding Construction, Alteration and Demolition Operations for additional guidance.

Some key highlights of the regulations are below. These are intended for the best management and maintenance of:

  • Street address must be visible at all times (please see Massachusetts General Law Chapter 148 Section 59)
  • Site access (this includes exterior and interior, stairs must be free of obstructions. Fire rated doors should never be propped open. Fire alarm controlled magnetic hold openers may be acceptable)
  • Access to fire hydrants, fire department connections, floor level and roof hose valves, portable fire extinguishers, master boxes and fire alarm control panels
  • Housekeeping being orderly
  • Flammable and combustible waste storage (dumpsters should not obstruct access, be stored inside of buildings and should be emptied/removed frequently)
  • Flammable and combustible construction necessary solids, liquids and gases storage (products such as gasoline and diesel fuel should not be left unattended and should be inside listed cabinets when not in use)
  • Hot work (please see the Massachusetts Hot Work Requirements and the Cambridge Fire Department Fire Detail Information pages)
  • Heaters should be constantly attended and avoid using portable flammable liquids and gases (please see Massachusetts General Law Chapter 148 Section 25). The use of carbon monoxide detectors/alarms must be evaluated
  • Smoking (please see Cambridge City Ordinance 8.28.050)
  • Fire alarm and fire sprinkler protection including standpipes (please note that many variations for interim fire alarm detection and notification may be acceptable and that permanent or temporary standpipes go in as the building goes up.
  • Portable fire extinguishers being accessible and in a ready state for use (please note that these should never be used as door hold open devices)
  • Posted in a conspicuous location emergency contact information (this should have applicable building owner/manager, general contractor and fire alarm/fire protection company phone numbers)
  • Posted floor plans and evacuation maps orientated correctly
  • Posting of an X or \ for unoccupied complete gut rehabilitated buildings (please see Massachusetts State Fire Code Chapter 10)

Other more frequent areas of the State Fire Code that have pertinent guidance related to construction are Chapters 1, 4, 10, 18 and 41

All building permit applications are required to submit a fire safety plan pertinent and site specific to the project and a Construction Project Fire Prevention Program Manager Document

Construction fire safety plans are essentially a living document. A challenge is how to write a living document. One approach may be to begin with a timeline starting with the expected day of obtaining a building permit and ending with the expected day for closing out the building permit (typically known as the certificate of occupancy phase). It is this in-between period where the project is most vulnerable. Perhaps your plan can fill in this timeline by matching up activities with their fire safety needs. Every construction site is different and it's fire safety needs will vary. Starting with good management and maintenance of the above should provide a strong base to work from.

Please contact Lt. Towski at 617-349-4153 or ctowski@cambridgefire.org with any questions or concerns.