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RecentHome Office Statistics estimate that there were approximately 400 fires within the construction industry in 1999, 60% of which were started maliciously. This follows a similar pattern seen in recent years and consequently, has serious repercussions for all parties involved in any construction project affected by fire.
In this bulletin we aim to provide those with an interest in fire and fire safety with an understanding of the fundamental aspects of false alarms together with an insight into the industry's response by research and development.
Fire safety legislation: Currently being updated.
Fire Safety Legislation: Currently being updated
We are all aware of the dangers of ignoring fire safety, especially when the event happens however, no matter what the consequences, we all wish we hadn’t The importance of alternative fire management procedures and fire safety policies is rarely understood. The economic consequences of such misunderstandings can have a devastating effect should a major fire occur. For those charged with comparing the cost effectiveness of fire safety strategies, many find the analytical difficulties a considerable hurdle particularly when the value of the item to be protected bears little relation to the cost of a fire. Fire safety is no longer bound by statutory regulations and standards due to the acceptance of fire engineered solutions, however many budgets set aside for fire safety rarely include the full extent of fire management costs and net value changes.
There has always been conflict between the need to maintain appropriate levels of fire safety against the increasing need to maintain effective levels of security, particularly where means of escape is concerned. The fact that the majority of fires are started deliberately by intruders intent on arson, theft or vandalism highlights the correlation between fire safety and security. This therefore poses some serious questions for an increasing amount of managers who have the responsibility for protecting the building and its occupants not only from fire but also from the threat of intrusion by thieves and vandals. Ultimately, it is possible to satisfy the requirements of fire safety and security by the incorporation of an integrated package of measures, and this is often achieved where new build developments and major refurbish schemes are undertaken. However, although achievable, it is not so easy for an existing fully operational building. It is therefore acknowledged that one of the main concerns for most managers is maintaining effective means of escape for all occupants in the event of an emergency whilst preventing intruders from entering.
These regulations have been in effect several months now, having replaced and revoked the original Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1992. This is the fourth time the original Regulations have been amended having been superseded by the Management of Health and Safety at Work (Amended) Regulations 1994, which relates to expectant Mothers, the Health and Safety (Young Persons) Regulations 1997 and the Fire Precautions (Workplace) Regulations 1997. As the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 introduced amendments proposed by the Health and Safety (Miscellaneous Modification) Regulations 1999, certain provisions have been ‘tightened up’ in accordance with the requirements of the European Union. It is these new provisions, highlighted below, which we feel may have a greater impact on organisations and how they operate with regards to Health and Safety Issues.
In the United Kingdom, arson is credited as the single most frequent cause of fires in buildings of all kinds. At its worst, arson leads to loss of life and significant financial damage, but persistent and minor arson can also have a detrimental effect on the economic wellbeing of communities. During the 10 years between 1986 & 1996, the number of deliberately started fires increased every year, such that in an average week in 1996, malicious fire-setting resulted in 3500 fires, 50 injuries, 2 deaths and a cost to society estimated at £25M. Historically, arson prevention was considered to be a management/procedural based activity, usually implemented upon building occupation, and it is this approach that will be discussed here. However, increasingly, designers are recognising the merits of incorporating ‘arson hostile’ features to a building during the planning stages this method of prevention by design will be explored in the second part of this bulletin.
There can be few amongst us who are unaware of the release of the new and amended version of Approved Document B. ADB2000 as it is sure to become known, replaces the 1992 edition and comes into effect on 1st July 2000. The format and layout remains largely unchanged and to those familiar with the contents, it seems to be as ‘user friendly’ as its predecessor. However, changes have been made and some of these changes will undoubtedly affect the way in which buildings are designed and constructed. Other changes are relatively cosmetic and have been made to align the recommendations made in ADB2000 to those detailed in the various fire-related British Standards. As its not possible to detail all the changes, only the major changes or those that are likely to have a significant effect have been commented on from a fire engineering perspective.
Since the introduction of the well publicised Fire Precautions (Workplace) (Amended) Regulations 1999, the majority of employers have been aware of the necessity to complete and formerly record a workplace fire risk assessment. However, one aspect of the overall risk assessment process that is commonly overlooked is that of the inclusion of the workplace emergency plan.