Construction Sites & Timber Frame

Construction Sites

It is a requirement of the Fire Safety Order 2005, that 'any' workplace is subject to the Order and by default this includes any Construction Site, including any Timber Frame Development. To this effect it is a legal requirement to have a Fire Risk Assessment in place for a Construction Site, with the HSE becoming the enforcing authority on any Construction Site (as compared to the Fire & Rescue Service).

Whilst there is a suite of Government guidance documents for risk assessment in place for most premises, issued by the DCLG (Department for Communities and Local Government) these guides do not specifically apply to Construction Sites.

There are a number of separate guidance and legislative documents in place in relation to Fire Safety for Construction Sites, and these include:

  • CDM regulations 2015
  • HSG168 Fire Safety in Construction (HSE Guidance)
  • Fire Prevention on Construction Sites (FPoCS) Joint Code of Practice - 9th Edition, 2015

Under CDM Regulations, aside of applying several rules and principles of prevention, in terms of risk, Principal Designers have a duty to take account of the risks from Fire under Regulation 29. Regulations 30 - 32 also call for Emergency Procedures, Emergency Routes and Exits, and Fire Detection and Fire Fighting Measures.

Following two major fires costing in excess of £150 Million - FPoCS Joint Code of Practice was first published in 1992, following the Insurance Industry questioning the economic viability of continuing to ensure Construction Sites. Put forward by the FPA and the Insurance Industry, this latest edition includes a point by point guide with 23 Sections on fire safety and fire safety requirements for Construction Sites.

HSG168 - Fire Safety in Construction (2010) was originally written to support those with legal responsibilities under CDM Regulations 2007 (at that time) and under fire safety legislation (the FSO) to deliver an adequate level of fire safety throughout the construction process.

The emphasis of HSG168 undoubtedly is on Risk Assessment and amplifies the 5 Step methodology put forward by other guidance such as the DCLG guides. The document specifically addresses the hazards and precautions that should be in place for a Construction Site and was the first published document / guide that required 'off the site' risks to neighbouring properties, for timber frame developments to be addressed.

In brief, it is a legal requirement to have all of the fire safety measures and arrangements in place on any Construction Site, to comply with the Fire Safety Order, as for any other premises, and this includes importantly a suitable and sufficient Fire Risk Assessment.

Timber Frame

Timber Frame construction has increased significantly over the last 10 years, and continues to do so, with reduced costs in both materials and labour, to increased sustainability and environmental benefits. As with all other types of material and construction methods, finished timber frame structures meet strict fire protection requirements and similarly comply with Building Regulations, in this regard.

However the timber frame is at its most vulnerable during the construction process, when the frame is 'untreated' and / or exposed, and depending on the proximity to neighbouring properties 'off the site', can cause a significant risk in terms of the potential for the spread of fire from in-particular, radiant heat.

Where there are multiple or large buildings on the construction site itself, means of escape for occupants / operatives on the site itself should also be evaluated in terms of the risk from spread of fire between buildings, or across the site.

Due to the already ever increasing and recent increase in the profile of fire safety, both on construction sites and elsewhere, the HSE are taking a more pro-active role in enforcement, and timber frame developments are coming under more scrutiny, with all projects over a certain size being registered with the CFOA and the HSE.

As with all other premises, construction sites, including timber frame developments, have to have suitable fire precaution measures and arrangements in place, and where applicable this should include mitigation against the potential for fire spread both on and off the site. There should also be sound management procedures, records and documentation in place to demonstrate compliance with legislative requirements.

Falcon Fire is a member of both the STA (Structural Timber Association) and the FPA (Fire Protection Association), specialising in Construction Site and Timber Frame Fire Safety and Risk Assessments, and provides specialist advice to a number of large and National companies / Building Contractors, from the Planning Stage through to completion. If you require any advice or information in this regard, please contact us to discuss your requirements. We will be glad to assist.