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Building work & alterations

Managing building work and alterations
Fires are more frequent when buildings are undergoing refurbishment or alteration. You should ensure that, before any building work starts, you have reviewed the fire risk assessment and considered what additional dangers are likely to be introduced. You will need to evaluate the additional risks to people, particularly in those buildings that continue to be occupied. Lack of pre-planning can lead to haphazard co-ordination of fire safety measures.

You should liaise and exchange information with contractors who will also have a duty under the construction (Health, safety and welfare) Regulations 1996 to carry out a risk assessment and inform you of their significant findings and the preventative measures they may employ.

This may be supported by the contractors agreed work method statement. The designer should also have considered fire safety as part of the construction (Design and management) Regulations 1994 (the CDM Regulations)

You should continuously monitor the impact of the building work on the general fire safety precautions, such as increased risk from quantities of combustible materials and accumulated waste and maintaining adequate means of escape. You should only allow the minimum materials necessary for the work in hand within or adjacent to your building.

Additional risks include;

Hot work such as flame cutting, welding, soldering or paint stripping.

Temporary electrical equipment.

Blocking of escape routes, including external escape routes.

Introduction of combustibles into an escape route.

Loss of normal storage facilities.

Fire safety equipment, such as automatic fire-detection systems becoming affected.

Fire-resisting partitions being breached or fire doors being wedged open.

Additional personnel who may be unfamiliar with the premises.

Activities such as welding, flame cutting, use of blow lamps or portable grinding equipment can pose a serious fire hazard and need to be strictly controlled when carried out in areas near flammable materials. This can be done by having a written permit to work for the people involved (whether they are your employees or those of a contractor).

A permit to work is appropriate in situations of high hazard/risk and, for example, where there is a need to;

Ensure that there is a formal check confirming that a safe system of work is being followed.

Co-ordinate with other people or activities.

Provide time-limits when it is safe to carry out the work.

Provide specialised personal protective equipment (such as breathing apparatus) or methods o communication.

You must notify the fire and rescue service about alterations in your premises if an alterations notice is in force. Further guidance on fire safety during construction work is available from the HSE.