Construction accidents can occur in any part of New York, even in areas that are away from all the skyscrapers and highways. This was shown last week when three 100-pound propane tanks caught fire at Liberty Island, forcing the tourists seeing the Statue of Liberty to evacuate.

The tanks were part of a construction project to build the Statue of Liberty museum. On Monday, August 27, they began to burn around noon. This set off two fire alarms and led to over 3,000 tourists boarding the ferries to leave New York’s iconic landmark. The FDNY spent the next couple of hours extinguishing the flames and cooling down the propane tanks until it was safe to be back on the island.

There was only one worker that received minor burns from the incident. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) states that fires on constructions sites results in dozens of civilian injuries and millions of dollars lost in property damage every year. To prevent this, construction workers must follow the fire prevention and protection procedures given by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Creating a fire plan

OSHA outlines the “fire plan” that needs approval before the construction begins and should be on the site for anyone to see it when they need to. When creating a fire plan, the supervisors should consider the following:

  • All potential ignition hazards need proper evaluation.
  • Wiring for objects that provide heat or power needs regular inspection.
  • Equipment with internal combustible engine and exhaust pipes should be away from combustible materials.
  • Fuel for internal combustion equipment must be in a safe location and equipment must be off before refueling.
  • Firefighting equipment shouldn’t be near flammable locations.
  • Storage for flammable liquids must be in approved containers.

Additionally, sites should be near locations with street fire hydrants or fire-extinguishing equipment for easy and quick access. This was difficult for the Liberty Island fire given the lack of streets and fire hydrants in the area, but thankfully they followed another one of OSHA’s fire prevention rules by having an alarm system to alert workers and tourists of the emergency. The FDNY ended up using sea water from five boats to help put out the fire.

An FDNY Commander states that there could have been a boiling liquid expanding vapor explosion had one of the tanks blown up and would have endangered the citizens with fire and shrap-metal. If the construction workers were not properly prepared for this, there could have been catastrophic consequences.

If you or a loved one received any injuries from an explosion or fire from a work site, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation if you acquire legal assistance with experience in construction disasters.