Construction sites present unique fire safety challenges due to the presence of combustible materials, fuel sources, and high-voltage electricity. For this reason, effective fire protection during construction is essential in order to protect workers from harm while ensuring project continuity. Fire risk assessment is key for the successful implementation of a comprehensive site plan that focuses on prevention and safe evacuation procedures should an emergency occur.
Construction professionals are embracing technology to create more efficient fire safety plans. Digitization promotes effective communication and response times, leading to safer construction sites with less risk of fires occurring in the first place or causing serious damage if they do ignite. By leveraging innovative advancements across all aspects of a project’s management system, contractors can improve their proactive security measures when it comes to protecting workers from potential risks in construction projects.
A focus on construction fire safety
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is known for its fire safety standards and has recently taken the top spot on the Numbeo Index, making it one of the safest places in the world. This is great news for businesses which are working hard to ensure that fire safety is at the forefront of their operations and construction projects. With fire safety regulations in place, risks in construction projects can be minimized on construction sites and fire prevention systems can be implemented more effectively.
The UAE offers businesses an ideal environment for fire safety – a combination of stringent fire safety regulations and advanced technology has helped keep fire-related fatalities to a minimum throughout the emirates. Businesses in search of a safe and secure location should look no further than the UAE, where fire safety is a priority.
In an effort to ensure the safety of construction sites in the UAE, the General Headquarters of Civil Defence has implemented the UAE Fire and Life Safety Code of Practice. This code tackles potential fire-related risks with new solutions that guarantee maximum protection throughout all construction stages, from design through completion. Through the development and implementation of changes to construction fire safety, as seen in the latest version of the UAE Fire and Life Safety Code of Practice, they made improvements that have decreased cases of fires over recent years.
In the updated code, all buildings, particularly high-rises, must have a fire pump within six meters from the nearest exit of any floor from the lowest basement to the ground floor. A kitchen can be placed in the basement, but there shouldn’t be LPG cylinders or storage tanks inside. Plus, it has to be well-ventilated. Other provisions cover the use of generators, which is allowed on podium desks and intermediate service floors, but not on the roof. Regarding roofs, the code states that roofs at least 6.1 meters from an occupied floor do not require a fire rating. These include roofs of mercantile, malls and industrial facilities.
Various laws exist to ensure construction companies adopt solutions that protect their workers and property against fire hazards. Construction companies are taking all necessary measures to comply with these laws, which include adopting the NFPA 5000 or the Building Construction and Safety Code. This code is used in many countries and has been pivotal in creating many fire safety regulations.
By complying with these laws and regulations, construction companies can enhance fire prevention on construction sites. It also facilitates the construction site fire risk assessment as these laws and regulations provide a comprehensive checklist of fire equipment, tools, installations, areas, and processes to check.
Fire safety risk assessment
Whether a construction project has an existing fire safety plan, it must be regularly subjected to a detailed fire safety risk assessment. In some cases, the results of this assessment become the basis for the fire safety plan. In addition, should there be newly discovered risks, they must all be considered in future fire safety plans.
A fire safety risk assessment is simply the process of identifying, assessing, and preventing fire hazards at the construction site. A fire engineer or qualified building certifier carries it out with these five goals:
- Provide a breakdown of the existing and potential fire risks on-site.
- Identify the people or assets that can be affected by the fire risks.
- Make precise recommendations for preventing and mitigating those risks.
- Prepare emergency plans and initiate across-the-board fire safety training.
- Help ensure compliance with fire safety and occupational health and safety regulations.
Through regular fire safety risk assessment, a construction company not only avoids loss of lives and time but also wins the trust and confidence of workers and stakeholders. A safe workplace, after all, is among the primary causes of retention. Overall, it helps protect the construction company’s bottom line revenue and clean reputation.
Many construction companies are now leveraging digital technology to improve their fire safety risk assessments. Integrating construction safety software, such as PlanRadar, into their project management system enables safety engineers to perform the assessment digitally. They can now use a digital checklist, which is accessible on mobile devices.
Fire Safety Plan
A fire safety plan is an all-inclusive and realistic strategy for preventing and responding to fires. Every building occupied by people must have one, whether it be a home, hospital, school, or commercial establishment. This is particularly critical for construction sites since they deal with multiple fire hazards. A fire safety plan has three main components:
- Fire prevention – Upon identifying all fire risks through initial or continuous fire safety risk assessment, the safety engineer must create a well-defined and feasible strategy to reduce or eliminate those fire risks.
- Fire mitigation – Contractors must put together the fire safety plan with the assumption that preventive measures aren’t fail-safe. Fire may still break out for unforeseen reasons. This part of the plan covers the methods for responding to a fire, including who to call, where to set up temporary fire protection during construction, procedures for evacuation, firefighting equipment, and how to put out the fire.
- Fire safety training – Firefighting is a collaborative effort. It needs the cooperation of all on-site personnel. Cooperation, however, doesn’t necessarily mean helping to put up the fire. Knowing what to contribute to everyone’s safety is part of it. Therefore, construction companies must provide their employees with the necessary fire safety training.
All personnel must be fully aware of the fire safety plan. Also, besides the compulsory training, all relevant documents are relayed to them through the project management platform. This is much easier and less costly than the traditional paper-based method.
How digital solutions can improve a construction site’s fire readiness
Technology is an integral part of fire safety on construction sites, providing various benefits and increased safety for personnel. Digital project management systems allow documents to be uploaded, processed, shared and stored on a single platform. This unification of processes offers organizations the necessary resources they need to tackle fire-safety challenges. Such a unified platform can also act as a communication tool which will help in relaying fire safety-related information quickly and efficiently.
Additionally, using technology provides an extra layer of fire safety as organizations are able to monitor fire alarms and devices from remote locations with real-time alerts when there is any potential fire risk. Thus, it’s clear that technology plays a vital role in fire safety for construction sites today. The platform can also be used as a communication tool. In terms of fire safety, this new technology helps in various ways:
1- No need to print forms
All fire safety risk assessment forms can be uploaded to the project management platform and accessed by the team anytime. Safety engineers can complete them in the field using their mobile devices. Unlike printed forms, the digital forms in the platform won’t be misplaced or damaged. They can even be exported in customised reports for a more organised presentation.
2- Show evidence of the fire to the team in real-time
Most project management platforms support all kinds of file formats, particularly videos and audio. Therefore, personnel at the scene can record the incident as it develops and upload the clips to the platform for concerned officers to see. This enables the project manager to initiate the correct response.
3- Document installation for future reference
Some fire accidents happen unexpectedly because mistakes during installation weren’t spotted and noted. Digital solutions such as PlanRadar provide an important fire readiness piece for such projects, enabling communication and documentation that are crucial for fire safety success. By documenting the process and uploading it on the platform, fire engineers can review it in case a fire breaks out or during the assessment to prevent potential incidents.
Such solutions have the ability to save time by tracking all fire safety-related activities from pre-construction to closeout of a job, keeping everyone informed along the way. For instance, digital solutions can alert team members when fire safety checks are due and help accurately document both fire safety compliance records and necessary fire drills. By improving communication and documentation, digital solutions empower stakeholders to better prepare and protect their growing construction sites through enhanced fire readiness.
4- Communicate the fire safety plan
Effective fire readiness relies on communication- that’s where digital solutions can help. The use of fire safety software enables digital plans, such as fire and evacuation strategies or fire drills, to help guarantee a clear understanding of the fire safety measures to all workers on site. Digital solutions also provide tools for the quick sharing of fire safety information across multiple teams, meaning that construction teams have the most up-to-date fire safety plan available no matter the location. As well as providing continued access to fire safety procedures anytime and anywhere, utilizing digital fire safety solutions keeps communication within the team simple and efficient.
By enabling teams to communicate fire safety plans quickly and easily amongst themselves, digital solutions present an effective way to ensure construction sites remain fire ready at all times.
Effective fire safety is key for construction sites. Companies must plan meticulously and hire experienced engineers to assess risks in construction projects in alignment with applicable laws and regulations while providing employees comprehensive training on how to act during a potential emergency.
Project management software makes it easier than ever before to ensure smooth communication of safety protocols between stakeholders, keep records which will be pertinent if an incident arises as well as efficiently relay instructions that can help mitigate hazardous events from occurring. To find out how PlanRadar can help you to improve fire safety in your construction site, start your 30-day free trial.