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Fire safety in construction

28 September 2009

HSE have announced that there are approximately 11 construction fires everyday. It is therefore imperative that precautions are in place in the event of a fire occurring. The Construction Design Management Regulations 2007 (CDM) were introduced on 6th April 2007 to cover the fire safety on construction sites.

Fire safety in construction
Fire safety in construction

The CDM Regulations are broken down into 5 parts:

  • Part 1: The application of the Regulations and definitions.
  • Part 2: General duties that apply to all construction projects.
  • Part 3: Additional duties that only apply to notifiable construction projects (those lasting more than 30 days or involving more than 500 persons for construction work).
  • Part 4: Practical requirements that apply to all construction sites.
  • Part 5: Transitional arrangements and revocations.
Construction Design Management Regulations require those designing, planning and carrying out projects to take construction fire safety into account. The regulations should be adopted and implemented into the policy, procedure and practice in order to be effective.

Construction sites can pose particular problems in terms of escape routes because they may be incomplete and complicated or obstructions may be present. These routes may also be unfamiliar and inconspicuous to workers or visitors. There may therefore be a need for special arrangements as people can easily become trapped, especially if working above or below ground level. An open site will be less of a risk as there will be many means of escape.

On a construction site there is a need to ensure the following:

  • Wherever possible, there are at least two escape routes in different directions
  • Travel distances to safety are reduced to a minimum
  • Enclosed escape routes such as corridors or stairwells can resist fire and smoke ingress from the surrounding site. Where fire doors are used, self-closing devices should be fitted
  • Escape routes and emergency exits are clearly signed
  • Escape routes and exits are kept clear
  • Emergency lighting is installed if necessary to enable escape
  • An assembly point is identified where people should gather to be accounted for
Regulation 40 of the CDM 2007, enforced by the HSE, covers Emergency Routes and Exits. Within this regulation it states that all emergency routes or exits and any fire-fighting equipment and how to use it shall be indicated by suitable signs and that where necessary, emergency lighting should be provided so that an emergency route or exit can be used at any time. Fire action notices should also be clearly displayed where everyone on site will see them, for example at fire points, site entrances or canteen areas.


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