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What is this publication about?

This guidance is about preventing fires and ensuring people’s safety if they start. It is relevant to all construction projects, small and large, and is aimed at everyone with a role in developing, managing and applying safety standards on site. Construction projects include those involving demolition, new build, maintenance and refurbishment, and site investigation.

Why is this guidance needed?

Fires can and do kill, injure and cause serious human suffering and financial loss. In the UK, most construction site fires are likely to be low-occurrence, high-consequence events. This means that reports of construction fires are low, but many people could be at risk from fire and/or smoke in the event of a fire spreading rapidly. All organisations and individuals with responsibilities for managing construction project fire risks must understand their role in reducing the risk of fire during all project phases. Fire prevention measures must be embedded within project planning because, during the construction phase, the permanent fire prevention measures have either been temporarily removed, or they have yet to be installed and commissioned.

Construction fire safety needs to be managed from the earliest stages of design and procurement and needs to address the risks both to site workers and to persons living or working in neighbouring buildings. This may mean reviewing particular construction methods, materials, or a specific site location to achieve effective fire risk reduction at the planning stage. Where design risk reduction is not practicable specific mitigation measures must be identified by the designers and principal designer. It is essential to consider fire safety measures throughout all stages of the design and procurement process and to implement them effectively during the construction phase. The risk assessment and fire safety measures must identify high-risk activities or construction methods where fires can spread quickly, and situations where evacuation plans are complex. All risk assessments and control measures must be reviewed during the construction phase to ensure they remain suitable and sufficient during the ever-changing environment and conditions.

Who should read this publication?

This publication is aimed at all CDM dutyholders and their safety representatives to act as a guide and to assist with planning fire safety during the design and construction phases of projects. It should aid site managers and those appointed as responsible persons to manage fire risks on site.

This guidance should help you to carry out fire risk assessments for lower-risk and less complex projects.

A competent person (with the skills, knowledge and experience in fire risk assessments on construction sites), such as a fire engineer, should be engaged to provide specialist advice for complex and/ or high-risk projects. Such projects are likely to need specialist advice beyond the scope of this guidance.

The following factors could indicate a complex site:

  • high-rise building over 18 m tall (or seven storeys or more). The term ‘storey’ is defined in the relevant Building Regulations;
  • large timber-frame development;
  • old or historic building with hidden voids;
  • interconnected buildings;
  • a large-scale or multi-storey refurbishment project;
  • sites that are partially occupied or will be occupied as part of a phased release;
  • use of novel construction methods or materials;
  • multiple underground levels; and/or
  • complex fire arrangements in the final design.

The above factors are only an indicator of complexity; each site needs to be assessed individually. Sites that are not considered complex may be considered high-risk; for example, sites where there are significant storage risks from combustible materials or flammable gases.