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Health and Safety Executive updates guidance on Fire Safety in Construction

09 August 2022

THE HEALTH and Safety Executive (HSE) has recently published an updated version of HSG168, the organisation’s dedicated publication centred on the subject of Fire Safety in Construction. The document’s contents concentrate on eliminating fire risks during the design phase (where practicable), preventing fires from starting and also ensuring people’s safety if they do.

The 102-page Third Edition, published by The Stationery Office, explains how everyone involved in construction projects can comply with their legal duties relating to fire risks. It’s aimed squarely at all those practitioners who procure, design, develop and manage construction sites (including clients and designers) and is relevant in relation to all construction projects.

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.

On that basis, 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 have otherwise yet to be installed and commissioned.

Design and procurement

Construction fire safety needs to be managed from the earliest stages of design and procurement and should 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 in order 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’s essential to consider fire safety measures throughout all stages of the design and procurement process and also 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, as well as those 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.

Main changes

The main changes to this latest iteration of the HSE’s guidance relate to the elimination and/or reduction of fire risks at the pre-construction stage as required by the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015. A comprehensive glossary has also been added.

The guidance is split into three parts addressing fire risk assessments, fire precautions and legal/enforcement responsibilities.

It’s important to note that this guidance does not reference the findings of the Grenfell Tower Public Inquiry on the basis that the fire, which occurred on 14 June 2017, did not occur while the building was being renovated or constructed.

*HSG168 Fire Safety in Construction (ISBN 9780717667246) is priced at £20 per copy and available to order online from HSE Books