fire safety

Fire Safety On Construction Sites – Get It Right From The Start

Companies should be aware that they should consider fire at the early stages of a construction project. Sometimes site conditions will be so difficult that alternative designs/ construction methods and materials should be considered at the outset. 

Construction site fires are relatively rare, but often devastating and potentially fatal, not just to those on site but to neighbours too.

Preventing and limiting the effect of a construction site fire depends on good initial design and planning and managing the risk throughout the build. 

Construction duty holders are legally required under the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 and the Regulatory Reform Order /Fire Scotland Act 2005 to identify the risks of fire and manage the key issues of general site fire safety issues of which are:

  1. Risk Assessment
  2. Means of Escape
  3. Means of giving warning, and
  4. Means of fighting fire

Certain building types are more vulnerable to fire during the construction phase when the final building regulation requirements are not yet in place, for example high rise construction and timber frame construction.

Refurbishment projects can also present a higher fire risk. The HSE expects higher additional precautions to be taken on sites that present a higher risk of fire.

Where the lives of people in adjacent properties are at risk from a fire on a construction site, an off the site assessment of the spread of fire to neighbouring buildings should be considered. The Structural Timber Association (formerly the UK Timber Frame Association) has free downloads of design guides on separation distances if you are considering building a timber frame. 

All duty holders in the supply chain should be actively communicating risks and controls for fire during the construction phase.

Further guidance for clients, designers and those managing and carrying out construction work involving significant fire risks can be found in HSG168: Fire Safety in Construction Work (Second Edition).

In addition to the legal requirement as detailed above and referenced in HSG168: Fire Safety in Construction Work, there are also insurance requirements to consider, these are set out in the JCoP Fire Prevention on Construction Sites (Ninth Edition).

The code applies to all activities carried out prior to and during the procurement, construction and design process – not the completed structure. The code should be read in conjunction with HSG168:  Fire Safety in Construction Work (Second Edition)

The scope of the Code applies to projects with an original value of £2.5m or above and applies equally to smaller value contracts where these are part of a large project.  A large project is one with a value of £20m and above.

Where the construction contract of the insurance contract does not require this code to apply, this code shall service as ‘best practice’.  All parties must always check with their insurance providers on each project.

What must you do?

All Duty Holders:

HSG168: Fire Safety in Construction Work – Appendix 4 “Who does what?” details duties for all duty holders.

Principal Contractor Specific Duties:

1.   Undertake a site fire risk assessment.

2.   Produce a Fire Management Plan which details all controls, duty holders and processes that are to be followed on site.

3.   Brief all relevant personnel on the contents of the plan so that they are fully aware of their duties, including neighbouring businesses and where appropriate householders.

4.   Regularly monitor and review your controls / plan and physical controls on site to ensure that they remain suitable for the site at all construction stages.

If you require any advice regarding fire management on site, do not hesitate to contact us on 0113 385 2740 to discuss our fire risk consultancy services.