Managing the Risk of Fire on Construction Sites

Managing the Risk of Fire on Construction Sites

29th March 2018

Last week’s fire on a building site in Glasgow has led us to take a closer look at the risk of fire on construction sites here in the UK so that we can provide our readers with the information necessary to avoid the risks.  In the UK all employers, building owners, landlords or occupiers of business premises are responsible for fire safety and designated as the ‘responsible person’ by law.  There are certain actions that the responsible person must take under the Fire Safety Order which is enforced by the local fire and rescue authority.  This Fire Safety Order also applies to those who have paying guests – such as guest houses, bed and breakfast establishments and those who let self-catering properties.

The responsible person for any building is legally obliged to carry out a fire risk assessment of the premises and perform regular reviews.   This identifies what needs to be done in order to prevent fires and keep people safe.  A written record must be kept of the fire risk assessments if the business has more than 5 people.   When carrying out assessments, the following steps need to be taken into consideration:

  • identify fire hazards
  • identify the people at risk
  • evaluate , remove and reduce any risks
  • record the findings, prepare an emergency plan and provide the requisite training
  • review and update the fire risk assessment on a regular basis

You will need to take the following issues into account:

  • fire detection and warning systems
  • fire fighting equipment
  • an emergency fire evacuation plan
  • emergency routes and exits
  • removal (or safe storage) of any dangerous substances
  • the needs of vulnerable people (young children, the elderly or those with disabilities)
  • the provision of information to employees and any other people using the premises
  • staff fire safety training

The responsible person will need to read the government’s Fire Safety Advice Documents, all of which may be downloaded free of charge on www.gov.uk  An Evacuation Plan is essential in case of fire and the following issues will need to be considered:

  • Clearly marked escape routes that are as direct and short as possible
  • Clear passage way to all escape routes
  • Enough exits and routes for everybody to escape
  • Emergency doors that are easy to open
  • Emergency lighting
  • A safe meeting point for staff
  • Training for every employee in knowing and using the escape routes

Fire detection and warning systems must be in place (suitable fire alarms in all areas of the workplace) and fire fighting equipment must be available.  The types of fire fighting equipment used will depend on the business premises.  All equipment should be installed by a competent person and should be visible with effective signage.  The fire fighting equipment will need to be checked on a regular basis by the responsible person and escape routes should also be regularly scanned to ensure they do not become blocked or inaccessible.

If appropriate, fire escape ladders will need to be installed.  These should be seen as a vital component in the fire safety plan and it’s essential that the correct ladders for the job are obtained.  Professional advice should be sought when sourcing the fire escape ladders to ensure that they are fit for purpose whatever industry your business is in.  The fire safety ladders will also need checking on a regular basis as part of the company’s fire safety plan.