Fires, Construction Sites, and Third-Party Injury Suits

Construction work is a risky occupation. Certain dangers are particular to construction sites (i.e. falls from scaffolding); other times workers face an increased risk of a common danger. Construction site fires are an example of the latter type of threat. Although workers are usually required to turn to the workers compensation system for claims against their employers, third party liability can provide additional recourse. Our Oakland construction injury attorney stands ready to help injured workers obtain all the compensation provided under state and federal law.

Construction Site Fire Destroys Homes-in-Progress in Pleasanton Area firetruck2.jpg
Firefighters were called to a construction site fire in Pleasanton around 2 A.M. on Tuesday November 4th. ABC7 spoke with Joe Tesla, Battalion Chief for the Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Department, who said firefighters didn’t need to look for the address for the site — the blaze was so big that they could see where they were headed the moment they left the station. The fire engulfed and destroyed homes being built on Valley Avenue. Two homes will need to be demolished, two others were minimally damaged.

Upon arriving at the scene, the fire department found that the neighborhood was so new that the fire hydrants didn’t even have water in them yet. Tesla said the complication added three or four minutes to the timeline since incoming units ended up bringing water to the scene. Firefighters and community members initially suspected arson, but investigators later traced the blaze to copper pipes that had recently been heated.

Fire Danger on Construction Sites
In 2009, Fire Protection Engineering, a publication by an industry trade group, carried a piece titled Construction Fire Safety: Phase by Phase. Author Mat Chibbaro with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration opens by noting that all types of buildings are more susceptible to fire and more likely to suffer its effects during construction, demolition, or renovation. He cites a range of reasons including the presence of numerous ignition sources and combustible materials. Fire can also spread easily given incomplete fire protection systems and a lack of the compartmentalization that can slow flames. Construction workers who spend the most time at construction sites face the risk or death, injury, or scarring from these blazes.

Protecting Workers: Mixing Prevention and Litigation
hardhat.jpgActions that can protect workers from harm include appointing a fire protection engineer to liaise with a range of disciplines and building open lines of communication. Design planning is also key and includes proper phasing of more dangerous activities. Chibbaro suggests that specific risks (i.e. open/other burning, materials that may spontaneously combust, temporary heating/electric equipment, and flammable materials) can be mitigated by a skilled fire protection engineer (though we’d suggest the possibility of bias given the journal’s base). Protection mechanisms can vary throughout the different stages of the construction process.

When fire injury does occur, protecting the worker often becomes a matter of getting the worker critically needed compensation. In prior posts, we discussed how a worker can use third party claims to recover damages beyond the limited amounts and types of money recoverable under workers compensation. Construction fires are a great example of when this “extra” recovery can be essential given the immense physical and emotional impact of fire injuries. Call our Northern California construction injury lawyer to learn more.

See Related Blog Posts:
Beyond Workers’ Comp: A Look at Third Party Claims Inspired by Scary Moments for Two Sets of California Window Washers
“The Sky Is Falling!”: Bay Area Injury Lawyer Examines Legal Rights Following Injuries from Falling Debris

(Truck image by Chad Kainz, Hat image by Davide Guglielmo)