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Fire Safety on Construction Sites

Over the past few months, we’ve noticed that the Fire Services and HSE are increasingly visiting construction sites and asking a simple question: “what are you doing to comply with your legal duties?” Seems easy enough, after all everyone knows how dangerous fires can be and how they start, don’t they? Of course they do, which probably means that controls are already likely to be in place to control the risks. But the Fire Services’ question was about meeting your legal requirements – do you know what these are? If you don’t then you’re leaving yourself open to criticism and possibly prosecution, fines or other penalties.

Fire safety legislation can be complicated and hard to understand. In essence, the law requires persons with control over construction work, not just large projects, to demonstrate that they have:

A smiling firefighter in his gear in front of his truck

  • Recognised the risks in their workplaces;
  • Considered who might be affected;
  • Assessed the extent of the risks;
  • Come to an informed decision on the necessary action to reduce them; and
  • Ensured that the actions decided are implemented.

This can simply mean that you undertake a risk assessment of the site, from a fire perspective. Consider things like:

  • sources of ignition, fuel and oxygen
  • people who might be on site, including persons who shouldn’t be on site
  • identifying any areas which require further attention. If you do identify areas where things aren’t quite as they should be then you need to decide what is necessary to improve matters and ensure that your improvements are carried out.

Now, we’re not professional fire fighters so you’ll also need to consider what should happen in the event of a fire starting which means formulating an emergency plan as well. This should basically tell everyone what to do in the event of emergency: where to go to; how the alarm is raised; who calls the Fire Services; etc.

Finally, you must communicate the risk assessment and emergency plan to the persons who might be affected. A simple way of ensuring that you communicate the findings is to post the emergency plan around the site, so that persons can refer to it easily, and keep the risk assessment to hand in the site file with signatures to confirm understanding. Signage around the site would also help to clarify where to meet, where fire extinguishers are located etc. It may be the case that you also need to provide some basic training to your employees as well to ensure that they understand the risks on site and how to handle emergency situations.

By doing the above you will then be able to demonstrate that you have:

  • considered the hazards on your site
  • implemented controls to reduce the risk
  • implemented plans to control emergency situations
  • provided those affected with suitable information, instruction and training.

It will also mean that if the Fire Service or other official body decide to inspect your site then you shouldn’t have anything to worry about.

RHheadshotIt may be the case that you can undertake all of the above yourselves. If you do need further help please don’t hesitate to contact ProAktive where one of our Risk Consultants will be happy to discuss your project and requirements in more detail. Reach us on 01302 341 344.

By Rachel Hamill, Risk Adviser.

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