If you own a business and are concerned about the fire safety specifications for your company or event, there are a myriad of federal public safety and labor regulations you must meet. Welcome to the wonderful world of property ownership! 

If you know your property is temporarily out of code, if you know your construction job may involve fire risks, or if you’re planning a special event that presents fire hazards, you should consider selecting  reputable private fire watch guard services to help protect you against financial liability in the event of an emergency–and to keep your employees and residents safe. 

A “fire watch” is a temporary situation in which a trained professional hired by a property owner to check for fires in progress or for extremely hazardous fire situations. Marisa Swanson described the services they provide this way: “Fire watch personnel do their work when the likelihood of a fire outbreak is high. This includes “hot work” on a building, or construction activities that involve welding, sparks or hot materials. The duties of fire watch personnel vary between jobs and location sites, but basic tasks come with each position. They may work with municipal or volunteer fire departments.”

For some business and property owners, the federal regulations alone can be daunting. To illustrate why you might want to consider hiring a firm who understands these regulations with professionals who are already trained well to meet them, Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute describes fire watch regulations this way: 

§ 1915.504 Fire watches

(a)Written fire watch policy. The employer must create and keep current a written policy that specifies the following requirements for employees performing fire watch in the workplace:

(1) The training employees must be given (§ 1915.508(c) contains detailed fire watch training requirements);

(2) The duties employees are to perform;

(3) The equipment employees must be given; and

(4) The personal protective equipment (PPE) that must be made available and worn as required by 29 CFR Part 1915, Subpart I.

(b)Posting fire watches. The employer must post a fire watch if during hot work any of the following conditions are present:

(1) Slag, weld splatter, or sparks might pass through an opening and cause a fire;

(2) Fire-resistant guards or curtains are not used to prevent ignition of combustible materials on or near decks, bulkheads, partitions, or overheads;

(3) Combustible material closer than 35 ft. (10.7m) to the hot work in either the horizontal or vertical direction cannot be removed, protected with flame-proof covers, or otherwise shielded with metal or fire-resistant guards or curtains;

(4) The hot work is carried out on or near insulation, combustible coatings, or sandwich-type construction that cannot be shielded, cut back, or removed, or in a space within a sandwich type construction that cannot be inerted;

(5) Combustible materials adjacent to the opposite sides of bulkheads, decks, overheads, metal partitions, or sandwich-type construction may be ignited by conduction or radiation;

(6) The hot work is close enough to cause ignition through heat radiation or conduction on the following:

(i) Insulated pipes, bulkheads, decks, partitions, or overheads; or

(ii) Combustible materials and/or coatings;

(7) The work is close enough to unprotected combustible pipe or cable runs to cause ignition; or

(8) A Marine Chemist, a Coast Guard-authorized person, or a shipyard Competent Person, as defined in 29 CFR Part 1915, Subpart B, requires that a fire watch be posted.

(c)Assigning employees to fire watch duty.

(1) The employer must not assign other duties to a fire watch while the hot work is in progress.

(2) Employers must ensure that employees assigned to fire watch duty:

(i) Have a clear view of and immediate access to all areas included in the fire watch;

(ii) Are able to communicate with workers exposed to hot work;

(iii) Are authorized to stop work if necessary and restore safe conditions within the hot work area;

(iv) Remain in the hot work area for at least 30 minutes after completion of the hot work, unless the employer or its representative surveys the exposed area and makes a determination that there is no further fire hazard;

(v) Are trained to detect fires that occur in areas exposed to the hot work;

(vi) Attempt to extinguish any incipient stage fires in the hot work area that are within the capability of available equipment and within the fire watch‘s training qualifications, as defined in § 1915.508;

(vii) Alert employees of any fire beyond the incipient stage; and

(viii) If unable to extinguish fire in the areas exposed to the hot work, activate the alarm.

(3) The employer must ensure that employees assigned to fire watch are physically capable of performing these duties.

If meeting that maze of regulations using your own employees or hiring and training someone to do it makes your head spin, you should consider hiring a professional security service.  Sometimes, the services of these private companies are purchased for other reasons. For example, if you’re a property owner in Florida and your building’s fire sprinkler or fire alarm system is inoperational, you are required by both Florida and Federal Law to hire a fire watch security guard and implement a fire watch. Your building or school may need fire doors and you don’t even know it. Your special event you’ve been planning for six months may also need a fire watch guard service, even if your property doesn’t require these services most of the time. 

This industry is growing for a variety of reasons including concerns about safety and security,  the demands of meeting safety regulations, a desire to have security professionals on-site 24-7 rather than risking the wait time for police and emergency personnel, and the exciting career possibilities for returning military personnel and retiring police and firefighters.  Don’t wait to determine if your property, construction job, or special event is up to fire code. Hire a fire watch guard service in Florida, now!

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