Fire Safety Regulations in Construction
The importance of following fire safety regulations in construction
Within any construction project, there are multiple risks that need navigating. In fact, a projects success is heavily reliant on the continued identification, assessment, and mitigation of risks. One of the most prevalent risks within any business is the risk of fire. Fire is reliant on three key factors: heat, combustible materials and oxygen. Without all three components, fire cannot survive. Unfortunately, within construction sites, these three components are plenty. There are multiple opportunities for fire to start, so strict fire safety regulations are necessary.
Reportedly, each year, insurance companies have to pay out millions following claims related to both fire and smoke damage. Fire can cause significant risk to health, construction materials and can cause project delays. It is in the best interest of any construction project manager to continuously carry out fire risk assessments, and act on them accordingly. In order to do so effectively, the appropriate training is required.
The top 5 causes of fires within construction
Within construction, there are five common causes of fire that can be prevented. Each of the below acts as a potential cause for fire.
Flammable and Hazardous Materials
Firstly, many materials used within construction projects can be potentially hazardous. Many pieces of equipment require the use of petrol or electric. Both equating to both combustible material and the risk of sparks. Unfortunately, use of these materials often cannot be avoided. Therefore, it is the responsibility of site managers and fire marshals to oversee their appropriate use.
Electrical Power Sources
The use of electrical equipment on a construction site is unavoidable. Multiple pieces of equipment require electricity to work, and this can cause significant risk to a project. Realistically, this cannot be avoided, so the best practice is to make sure the equipment is used and stored correctly. This includes both tools and comfort items, such as microwaves or electric heaters.
This seems a little bleak, but unfortunately, the risk of arson is much higher than you might think. It can be assumed that within construction, arson is more often than not, a crime of opportunity. With both flammable materials and multiple power sources, there are plenty of dangers on site that require supervision. Construction sites are also an ample opportunity for anyone looking to cause trouble. Therefore, it is imperative that security measures are put in place to mitigate this risk.
Gaps in Fire Protection Measures
Unfortunately, although necessary, fire protection measures aren’t flawless. The majority of fire on site are accidental. Regardless of the precautions taken, there is always going to be an existing risk level and despite this risk being low, it can still have devastating effects. This includes factors such as; inadequate training, incorrect storage and waste disposal, blocked exit and access routes and incorrect provision of fire extinguishers.
Most of the above instances include an element of human error. Yet there is one area that has yet to have been covered and this too, poses significant risk. Working on site can mean long days; early starts and late finishes. With this, all construction workers are entitled to breaks to rest and eat. Incorrect supply, storage and use of cooking equipment is a fire hazard that needs to be handled with the same severity of those mentioned above. The same goes for smoking on site. If there isn’t designated areas and bins available, stray cigarette butts can can be dangerous.
Fire control measures in construction
With there being so many potential fire risks on a site, it’s important to take as many preventative measures as possible. Luckily, there are plenty of steps you can take that will reduce the risk of fire by removing potential sources of danger. Each of the below are listed as easily adhered to fire safety regulations.
Swap Out Flammable Materials
Materials can be swapped out for non-flammable alternatives. Thanks to modern developments, there are now many alternatives out there, and these can easily replace their flammable counterparts. Where possible, flammable materials should be swapped out for alternatives to decrease the potential risk. These materials has been designed to do the same job, whilst helping to mitigate fire risks where possible.
Proactive Waste Disposal
It is important to not only reduce the risk of a fire starting, but you also want to think about how the fire can spread. By the use of appropriate waste disposal, you can decrease both the risk of a fire starting but also the risk of it spreading. Additionally, although they may seem like a simple way to dispose of waste, self-made bonfires should be avoided as these can quickly escalate.
Fire Safety Training And Protective Equipment
Having a fully trained team can eliminate a lot of risk. Through training, staff will be aware of how to avoid and reduce risk themselves and have a more proactive approach. Furthermore, its very important that at every given opportunity, there is protective equipment available. Not only does a company have to provide such equipment, but this equipment must also be regularly tested to check for any defects.
Security, CCTV, Fences and Motion Detectors
These are all excellent steps that can be taken to prevent arson. As discussed above, its assumed that the main cause behind this crime is opportunity. Therefore, the best way to reduce this risk is to remove the opportunity. By adding security measures such as CCTV, fences, motion detectors and guards, you are quickly decreasing the risk of arson. Furthermore, resources such as this also make the monitoring of potential risks much easier.
Designated Break Areas with Cooking Equipment Provided
Through the provision of company equipment, the room for human error is significantly decreased. However, perhaps more beneficial is the designation of specific break areas. Keeping breaks to specific areas means you are able to control the potential risk levels. For example, designated smoking areas significantly reduce risks. Incorrect disposable of cigarettes is a huge risk, one which can easily be avoided.
PAT (Portable Appliance Testing) Test Everything
PAT tests are a legal requirement for electrical goods within a workplace. Completed by qualified professionals, the reasoning for these tests is to ensure that all electrical goods are in suitable working conditions. Faulty equipment can be very dangerous, therefore it is important to make sure your equipment is running to the best of its abilities at all time.
Legal Requirements Regarding Fire Safety Regulations in Construction
Due to the risk fire can pose, there are multiple legislative acts in place in regard to the prevention and management of fire safety regulations on construction sites. These acts have been in place for decades and are continually updated to reflect current affairs. It is important to note that whilst these legislations have been updated, the key principles remain the same.
Fire Safety Order 2005 (FSO 2005)
The FSO 2005 works to eliminate the risk of fire “as far as is reasonably practical”. This document is in place to provide the reasonable precautions to appropriately deal with risk. It addresses the measures that should be taken to reduce risk within the use of both flammable and explosive materials. Furthermore, it lists out the correct way of creating a plan to handle and record any emergencies that many arise. To summarise, the main focus of the FSO 2005 is to ensure that the responsible person must carry out risk assessments on a construction site.
The HSG168 Fire Safety in Construction – Guidance for Clients, Designers and Those Managing and Carrying Out Construction Work Including Significant Fire Risks (HSG168)
Five Part Assessment Plan
The HSG 168 sets out a clear five-step risk assessment plan to act as guidance. The five steps are as follows:
- Identify hazards
- Identify those at risk
- Evaluate, remove, reduce and protect from risk
- Record, plan, inform, instruct and train
Guidance on Fire Risk Assessment and Precautions
In line with the guidance on how to correctly carry out a risk assessment plan in accordance with fire safety regulations, the HSG 168 provides further guidance for construction. The guidance includes a variety of precautions and procedures to be followed. To start with, it advises on the reduction of ignition and fuel sources. It then goes on to discuss “General fire precautions”, “Guidance for multi-stories” and emergency procedures. It also advises on the use of higher fire risk methods and materials of construction. This provides further clarity on how to appropriately follow fire safety regulations.
Legal and Enforcement Responsibilities
Finally, the HSG 168 sets out clear and concise legal and enforcement responsibilities within the team. It goes into a detailed explanation about the legislation behind fire safety regulations, as well as what this means for the people responsible for overseeing them. It discusses the enforcement of fire safety legislation as well as the authorities responsible for their enforcement. In all, this document sets out a clear process for the appropriate following of fire safety regulations and legislation, leaving little room for error.
Fire Safety Regulation Compliance
With all the above to consider, it is easy to see how fire safety regulations are an important part of any construction site. With fire safety holding such an important place within safe construction, it is important that all involved have the appropriate training.
Not only is training a legal requirement, but it’s also a worthy investment. The loss involved with fire damage can be catastrophic. Therefore, its best to invest for prevention as opposed to face the consequences of being unprepared.
Fire Safety Regulation Training
There are plenty of opportunities for fire safety training within the workplace. Firstly, you should ensure that all employees have a base level understanding of fire safety regulations. Many training providers and colleges will teach the basics of fire safety, but this isn’t enough. With fire posing such a significant risk, you want the staff to be trained to a full comprehension of how they should act in a fire.
The first step is to ensure all senior staff have appropriate fire safety training. If they don’t, take this opportunity to provide training. Once you have confirmed the training of the senior staff, it is then time to focus on the remaining staff. All staff should be enrolled on a fire safety training course upon employment. Doing so increases the awareness and understanding of best practice, in turn minimising risk. Following on from this, all staff should be provided the opportunity to continue training throughout employment, and refresher training should be provided.
Training Online with the College of Contract Management
Here at the College of Contract Management we provide online training across multiple areas of construction. Furthermore, our training is hosted live online by experienced professionals. Through the delivery of these sessions, our lecturers will provide you with an interactive learning environment, conductive of learning regardless of location. We have tailored our courses, based on the knowledge of experience professionals to ensure you get the highest possible understanding out of our sessions.
Courses such as our NVQ Level 6 Diploma in Construction Site Management, are not only flexible to fit round your working schedule, but also an excellent way to increase your understanding on fire safety regulations. As with many of our courses, safety is a focus throughout this course. Within the Building and Civil Engineering Units you will find topics that cover health, safety, welfare and material organisation, control and monitoring.
CPD at the College of Contract Management
This is just one of many courses at the College of Contract Management that offer such training. Another avenue that can be explored, if you have already completed a higher-level diploma, is a CPD course. Continued Professional Development is available to all staff, regardless of previous training. Not only are CPD’s beneficial for the business, but many chartered memberships require CPD hours too. By studying a CPD course with the College of Contract Management, you are effectively killing two birds with one stone. Not only will this help you meet the required CPD expectation, but you will also get a comprehensive refresher session on fire safety regulations.