Construction Safety

Trench Safety - Is trench safety being ignored in construction?

Is trench safety being ignored in construction-.jpg

Kansas City -- Last year, D.J. Meyer died in a trench accident while working for a plumbing company.  That company received $700,000 in fines from the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA).

OSHA claims that the company seriously and willfully neglected the trench safety rules.  

Jordan Barab, the former deputy assistant secretary of labor for OSHA said this is, "sad and infuriating.  He continued, "Being put in a position to choose between your jobs and your life is not a position anyone should be in."


The White House has not appointed a permanent leader for OSHA and this has caused some issues for the department.  OSHA's rule making agenda has been cut in half by the current administration.  On top of these issues, the administration also cut the budget for OSHA.  OSHA is at a point where they are considering rolling back regulations because they don't have the budget to implement them.

What can companies do to keep their workers safe in trenches?

OSHA requires that all trenches have a means to prevent cave-ins by 

  • Sloping or benching - forming an incline on the sides of an excavation.
  • Shoring - Using site built structures made with timbers, planks, or plywood to support the sides of an excavation.
  • Shielding - Using trench boxes or trench shields to prevent the walls from collapsing.

Read more of the trench safety regulations here.

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Infographic: The Ultimate Fire Safety Guide for Young Families

family fire safety

Every twenty-five seconds, a fire department responds to a fire.  That is especially scary when you have children that live in your property.  In fact, 60,000 children die in fire and fire-related events each year.

To keep children safe in your property, make sure all smoke alarms in the complex are working.  In addition, having a clear fire plan is important.  Have the plan posted at all exits.

Residents in apartment buildings can help keep their building safe from fire by always being present when the oven/stove is in use, burning candles safety, professionally repairing appliances with electrical issues, and not smoking in the residence.

See more safety fits in this infographic by Contractor Quotes.


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Fire at 30 Rock: Fires in History

30 rock fires in history

Writer:  Sarah Block,  Marketing Director at The Moran Group

The Scene

On October 10, 1996, an electrical fire ignited at 30 Rockefeller Plaza at 4am, surprising an early morning television show taping and causing the cancellation of several shows.

At 3:59am, a civilian called 9-1-1 after seeing smoke billowing from a window on the fifth floor. Fire crews arrived, and came straight to the security station at the front desk. The arriving firefighters asked question after question, wondering where the fire was, how it started, what was the building layout. However, security crews had no idea that a fire had ignited in the building. No alarms went off. No one evacuated. No smoky tendrils drifted to the first floor.

The complex was made up of three buildings: one, a seventy-story structure; two, a sixteen-story structure; and three, an eleven-story structure. The buildings were solidly built with masonry exterior, concrete interior structure, and terra cotta tiles inside. The complex was classified as a mixed-occupancy with high-rise provisions, according to NFPA 101.

The Fire

The fire started in the fifth floor electrical room, and moved through to five different electrical rooms. Because of the need for more and more electricity in a building with this type of unique need, the electrical cabling continued to be added and added without removing old cabling. It was squeezed tightly, leaving no clearance between cables or the I-beam. The burning cables burned through the electrical insulation and this caused a large flow of current to surge through to other electrical rooms, catching five different rooms on fire.

The fire took four hours to control due to several hindrances. Renovations were taking place during this fire and electricity was cut off to the fifth floor. This cut off the smoke and fire alarms on that floor as well. They never went off. The odd layout of the complex also made fighting this fire difficult. First responders reported that the building's security were little to no help with reporting the layout of the building. The smoke and multiple fires also led to a difficult fight.

Luckily, the building had very few people inside because of the hour. All occupants were able to evacuate safely.


The Aftermath

NFPA and fire crews investigated this fire and found that the fire ignited and spread because of poor decisions. There was inadequate circuit protection, lack of adequate space for electrical conductors, unprotected vertical and horizontal penetrations, no fire sprinklers on upper floors (where fire occurred), lack of smoke detection in area of fire (turned off), confusing building layout, fire alarm failure, and multiple points of origin. If the electrical system was thought out more clearly, this fire wouldn't have started and it certainly wouldn't have caused five separate fires.

In the end, twelve firefighters were injured, five civilians were injured, and the property damage was in the millions from smoke, water, and electrical damage.

After a fire, the building owner's goal is to get occupants back into their building as fast as possible. A major television network was forced to relocate to New Jersey for a period of time while the building got the electricity back in order and renovated. In trying to do this quickly, cabling was run through holes made into fire barriers. If another fire were to occur, this would negate the barrier and allow the fire to spread. In addition, while the electricity was being fixed, unattended candles were being used, and stairways were propped open. It appears no lesson was learned.

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Fires in History: Windsor High-rise

Windsor high-rise

When a 32-story high-rise in the center of the financial district quickly turned into a towering inferno, it showed just how important fire protection truly is.  As it so happened, that building was undergoing an extensive fire protection renovation that had not yet been completed.  The fire caused $72 million in damage to the building.  Fire sprinklers reduce property damage by 70% on average and extinguish the fire in less than half the time it takes for fire crews to arrive in many cases.  So, if the fire protection had been completed, it is fair to say the outcome would likely have been different.

The Scene

In 1979, the eighth tallest skyscraper was built in Madrid, Spain within the financial center of the city.  The Windsor Tower boasted 106 meters and 32 floors.  At the time it was built, fire protection measures were lacking, so, to meet new building code, the Windsor was undergoing fire protection upgrades on February 12, 2005, when a fire detected on the 21st floor destroyed the building.

The 32-story concrete building with reinforced concrete core had a two-way spanning 280 MM waffle slab supported by the concrete core, internal RC columns with additional 360 MM deep steel I-beams, and steel perimeter columns.  Floor by floor, fire protection was being added to the building, starting at the bottom floor.  The three year project included fire protection to the perimeter steel columns using a boarding system, fire protection to the internal steel beams using a spray protection, a sprinkler system, and a new aluminum cladding system.  At the time of the fire, the fire protection for all floors below the seventeenth were close to complete, except floors 9 and 15.  The gaps between the cladding and the floor slabs had to be sealed with fireproof materials still.  In addition, the fire stopping to voids and fire doors to vertical shafts were not fully installed and the fire sprinklers were just beginning to be installed.

The building was adopting an open floor plan concept, so fire compartmentation could only be done floor by floor.  Vertical compartmentation couldn’t fully be achieved because of the lack of firestop systems in floor openings and between the original cladding and floor slabs.

The Fire

The fire started on the 21st floor of the Windsor Tower at midnight.  It spread quickly, first driving up to the 32ndfloor and then traveling down to the 2nd floor – all within 1 hour.  With no fire stops yet installed, the fire easily devoured the building. 

Firefighters arrived soon after midnight.  It took 24 hours to extinguish the blaze.  This fire was named the worst fire in Madrid’s history.    

The Aftermath

The fire was originally thought to have been started from an electrical short-circuit; however, police discovered that a door was forced open.  Additionally, amateur video footage shows what appears to be people moving throughout the eighth floor, below the fire.  Other video footage shows lights inside the building, after it was thought that the lights went out.  It is still unclear what the true cause of the fire was.

It took 24 hours to completely extinguish the fire.  The fire caused $72 million (pre-renovation) in damages.

Following the fire, it was determined that the following factors lead to the rapid growth of the fire:

·         Lack of effective firefighting measures, such as automatic fire sprinklers.

·         Open floor plan.

·         Failure of vertical compartmentation measures in the façade system and floor openings.

·         The fire protection on the existing steelworks below the 17th floor had been completed, except for the 9th and 15th floors.  When the fire moved to the unprotected floors, the columns buckled, but did not cause a collapse.

The Windsor Tower fire acts as an excellent example of why high-rise fire protection is an absolute necessity.  If the fire protection was completely installed at the time of the fire, it is likely that the fire would have been contained to the floor of origin, greatly reducing the amount of damage to the building.  

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Fires in History: Cocoanut Grove Fire

cocoanut grove fire

Written By:  Sarah Block, Director of Marketing & Education

On November 28, 1942, the Cocoanut Grove fire killed 492 people in Boston, MA. In one night, that fire inspired change in building code across the country, advanced medical treatment for burn victims, popularized the use of penicillin, and put the mob on display. It became the deadliest nightclub fire in history and the second deadliest building fire in U.S. history, it follows the Iroquois Theater Fire in Chicago with 602 victims.

The Scene

The Cocoanut Grove nightclub was the hot spot in Boston. It opened in 1927, owned by mafia Gangboss Charles "King" Solomon. Solomon was killed in 1933, and his attorney Barnet "Barney" Welansky took over the club.

Welansky ran a tight ship. He saved money wherever he could. His workers were either young teens that would work for low wages or men with mafia ties who worked as bouncers/waiters. He feared that customers would leave without paying and hid exits. They were bricked off or hidden behind drapery.

The club itself had a tropical feel. The roof rolled back to allow patrons to dance under the stars. The club was covered in faux leather, rattan, bamboo, satin, and heavy drapery. The ceilings were covered in canopies of silk. Even the support columns were wrapped in fabric and made to look like palm trees with light fixtures that hung down looking like coconuts. The nightclub consisted of a main room and several smaller bars and lounges.

A week before the fire, the Boston's Fire Prevention and Safety Department conducted an inspection. They determined that the wall coverings and other décor was not flammable. They also reported that there were enough exits and fire extinguishers.

With the fire taking place the week of Thanksgiving, it was very crowded that night. It is estimated that 1,000 Thanksgiving tourists, wartime servicemen, football fans, and others were in the club that night. The occupancy limit was set at 460 people. 

The Fire

At 10:15pm, the fire ignited in the Melody Lounge. A piano lounge off the main room. Eye witnesses say that a young man unscrewed a light bulb to steal a private moment with his date. A busboy was asked to screw the bulb back in. It was so dark that the teenager sparked a match to find the bulb. The match quickly ignited the faux palm trees and spread to the other décor. The fabric draped from the ceiling began burning and sending sparks and burning shards of fabric raining down on the patrons.

The fire spread through the business when a fireball burst through the front entryway and hit the caricature bar (where famous patron's pictures were displayed). It went through the caricature bar, down to the Broadway Lounge, across the restaurant and to the dance floor in a few minutes. Only one exit was usable and visible.

As patrons stampeded to the only visible exit, a revolving door, it was rendered useless as people fell and piled on top of each other. The pile grew and grew until the door broke. The sudden burst of oxygen caused a fire ball that burned all of the people trying to get out.

The Aftermath

Following the fire, officials testified that if the doors were outward swinging, about 300 people would have been saved. This fire inspired several fire safety laws to become a national requirement. It became illegal to have only a revolving door as the main entrance. Revolving doors now need to be able to fold and open manually or be flanked by doors that open outward.

During the investigation, the busboy who lit the fire was exonerated because he was not responsible for the flammable décor or life safety violations. Barney Welansky, the bar owner, was convicted of 19 counts of manslaughter (the court picked 19 victims at random) and was sentenced to 12 to 15 years in prison in 1943. He was pardoned 4 years later by Massachusetts Governor Maurice Tobin (who was mayor of Boston at the time of the fire) when Welansky became riddled with cancer. When he was released he said that he had wished that he died in the fire with the other victims. He died 9 weeks later.

In February 1942, 21 months before the fire, NFPA released and approved new fire codes. Boston did not adopt them and it was proven that many of these codes would have saved hundreds of lives in the fire.

• Exits available in reasonable travel distance
• At least two ways out remote from each other - additional exits according to the number of persons and relative fire danger.
• Exit path marked, unobstructed, and lit.
• Plain view of favored types of emergency exits.
• Evacuation drills that are well-planned and frequently practiced.
• Only collapsible revolving doors on required exits.

In addition, William A. Reilly made the recommendations below based on the Cocoanut Grove fire.

• Installation of automatic sprinklers in any room occupied as a restaurant, nightclub, or place of entertainment.
• Prohibition of the use of basement rooms as places of assembly, unless provision is made for at least two direct means of access to the street with installation of metal-covered automatic closing fire doors being required in any passage of existing between basement floor and first floor.
• Requirement of defined aisle space between tables in restaurants, such tables to be firmly affixed to the floor to prevent upsetting and obstruction of means of egress.
• Exit doors in places of assembly to have so-called panic locks and no others. Such exits to be marked by illuminated "EXIT" signs with the minimum candle power to be specified in the law, and supplied by an electrical system. Such system might also be permitted to serve a few recessed of box-type fixtures, for emergency use as a guide light in the event of failure of the main lighting system.
• Absolute prohibition in any place of assembly of the use of any suspended cloth false ceiling.
• Window openings of sufficient area, equipped with louvers secured by a fusible link so as to open automatically when subjected to heat, for the purpose of drawing flames or gases, should be required in basement rooms used as places of assembly.

Boston adapted this code in May of 1943. However, it was not retroactive and only applied to new construction.

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