The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (FSO) sets out the law on construction site general fire safety.
The FSO requires that a ‘responsible person’ must carry out, and keep up to date, a risk assessment and implement appropriate measures to minimise the risk to life and property from fire.
The responsible person will usually be the main or principal contractor in control of the site.
You should identify sources of fuel and ignition and establish general fire precautions including, means of escape, warning and fighting fire, based on your fire risk assessment.
In occupied buildings such as offices, make sure the work does not interfere with existing escape routes from the building, or any fire separation, alarms, dry risers, or sprinkler systems.
Key issues are:
- Risk assessment
- Means of escape
- Means of giving warning
- Means of fighting fire
Construction of timber frame buildings will require significant additional measures – please refer to the specific guidance listed.
What you need to know
Each year there a number of serious fires on construction sites and buildings undergoing refurbishment.
In most cases, conducting a risk assessment will be a relatively straightforward and simple task that may be carried out by the responsible person, or a person they nominate, such as a consultant.
There are five steps in carrying out a fire risk assessment:
- Identify hazards: consider how a fire could start and what could burn;
- People at risk: employees, contractors, visitors and anyone who is vulnerable, eg disabled;
- Evaluation and action: consider the hazards and people identified in 1 and 2 and act to remove and reduce risk to protect people and premises;
- Record, plan and train: keep a record of the risks and action taken. Make a clear plan for fire safety and ensure that people understand what they need to do in the event of a fire; and
- Review: your assessment regularly and check it takes account of any changes on site.
Means of escape
Key aspects to providing safe means of escape on construction sites include:
- Routes: your risk assessment should determine the escape routes required, which must be kept available and unobstructed;
- Alternatives:well-separated alternative ways to ground level should be provided where possible;
- Protection: routes can be protected by installing permanent fire separation and fire doors as soon as possible;
- Assembly: make sure escape routes give access to a safe place where people can assemble and be accounted for. On a small site the pavement outside may be adequate; and
- Signs: will be needed if people are not familiar with the escape routes. Lighting should be provided for enclosed escape routes and emergency lighting may be required.
Means of giving warning
Set up a system to alert people on site. This may be temporary or permanent mains operated fire alarm (tested regularly), a klaxon, an air horn or a whistle, depending on the size and complexity of the site.
The warning needs to be distinctive, audible above other noise and recognisable by everyone.
Means of fighting fire
Fire extinguishers should be located at identified fire points around the site. The extinguishers should be appropriate to the nature of the potential fire:
- wood, paper and cloth – water extinguisher;
- flammable liquids – dry powder or foam extinguisher;
- electrical – carbon dioxide (C02) extinguisher.
Nominated people should be trained in how to use extinguishers.