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Hot Work Compliance can prevent fires on building sites

Media reports regarding last week’s fire at London’s exclusive 5 Star Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Hyde Park, suggest that it started on the roof where contractors were still carrying out building work as part of the hotel’s extensive refurbishment program. According to one tradesman, the builders had been cutting materials on the roof during the day – which of course, raises the question of whether the cause of the fire was Hot Work related.

Welding, soldering, brazing, grinding and drilling all pose fire risks – especially in areas containing flammable or combustible materials. Dry timber, wood debris, adhesives, insulating materials and soft furnishings are just some of the things that can easily ignite and working with such ignition sources near flammable materials is known as ‘Hot Work’.

Any contractor – whatever their size – needs to ensure that they are Hot Work compliant, so for anyone planning or undertaking any type of Hot Work, this is what you need to know to keep safe and be on the right side of the law:

1. Know your safety regulations. If you don’t comply you may be investigated, sentenced, fined or even jailed.

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and the Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999 state that all employers and self-employed persons must carry out risk assessments for fire risks and put any necessary controls in place. Companies and individuals found negligent of the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 can be fined up to £450,000*. Those deemed responsible can also face a custodial sentence.

2. Get a Hot Work Permit. It’s the law, you need one for every job, before you start.

If Hot Work is unavoidable, you must have Hot Work Permit in place BEFORE work starts. The Hot Work form summarises what work is to be carried out, how and when it is to be done and what precautions are needed.

A Hot Work permit is completed and issued by someone who understands the fire risks fully, for example a supervisor on the site or the contractor responsible for the work. The site supervisor authorises the permit for use and signs off the work on safe completion.

You can download the Hot Work Permit template which is included in the Firechief Guide to Hot Work Compliance booklet 

3. Plan ahead and minimise the risk

Remember that for a fire to start, you need all three of the following elements:

• Oxygen – not only from the air but also from artificial, oxidising materials and oxygen in cylinders
• Fuel – flammable liquid like paints, varnish, white spirit, adhesives, solvents, wood and packaging materials, shavings and oily rags
• Heat – smoking, lights, naked flames, electrical, gas or oil-fired heaters, sparks from Hot Work, faulty electrical equipment, etc.

Important questions to ask yourself in advance:

• Do you have the correct firefighting equipment for your working area?
• Do you have a fire blanket to protect flammable items?
• Have you cleared the area of combustible materials?
• Are you aware of your emergency exit and assembly point?
• Is the storage and disposal of flammable materials adequate?
• Have you completed a Hot Work Permit?

Once you have assessed the fire risks in your working area and got your Hot Work Permit form ready to complete, all that’s left is to stock up on quality, UK approved fire safety equipment. To find out exactly what equipment you need for the fire risks in your working area, download a copy of the Firechief Guide to Hot Work Compliance. This also includes a Hot Work Permit template for you to use whenever you need to.

The Firechief range of products set the standard for those who are seeking competitively priced, superior quality, UK-approved fire safety products. Look out for the Firechief brand for products you can trust to help keep you safe. Contact [email protected] or call us on 0330 999 0019

*assuming a turnover of <£2m

New Firechief Doorwarden video launched!

The Firechief Doorwarden wireless fire door stop legally holds open a fire door, until the fire alarm sounds.

Easy to install with no set up required, it learns to recognise the sound of your fire alarm in 20 seconds.

It’s also fully compliant with BSEN1155 and accepted by UK fire brigades.      Watch our new video now to learn more https://youtu.be/lv4FH5pgdlQ

 

Fire Safety Risks for Flats

Many people throughout the UK live in tower blocks and flats. All flats are required to have a fire risk assessment as well as ensure that the building has a fire safety equipment that complies with UK law.

Most fires that raze down blocks of flats are usually caused by those living in those flats. One main factor of fire in flats is usually tied to carelessness. If residents can be extra cautious and be careful when dealing with anything that can cause a fire, there’d be fewer cases of fires in flats. We will have an in-depth look at some of the causes of flat fires shortly.

 

Fire risk assessments have been a legal requirement since 2006.

 

Having adequate fire safety is crucial in protecting the homes and lives of those living in the flats. Flat fires are known to be devastating and cause leave behind fatalities as well as losses. And while landlords or agents have a big responsibility when it comes to fire safety in their own buildings, residents also share in in the responsibility.

That said, residents also need to ensure that they are the brother’s keeper as this can go a long way in ensuring that everyone adheres to the fire safety guidelines available. So, what responsibilities befall both residents and landlords when it comes to fire safety risks for flats in the UK?

 

Fire Safety Responsibility for Residents

First and foremost, as mentioned, residents play a vital role when it comes to ensuring the security of everyone living in the flat. Residents in this context include both leaseholders as well as tenants. The first responsibility a resident has is ensuring they have the right fire detection equipment such as smoke detectors. Besides having them, they need to ensure they are always in working order.

Smoke detectors in any flat can make the difference in whether the whole block is razed down by fire or the fire department gets a signal warning and reacts immediately to prevent damage. Additionally, before renting a flat, one needs to ensure that the whole black has emergency fire exit doors in case a fire breaks out and that they are easily accessible. Emergency Fire exits can mean the difference between life and death.

As a tenant, is the building is freehold, you become responsible for ensuring that the front door of the flat is a fire door that is of quality standard. On the other hand, if the building is leasehold, then both the leaseholders and tenants bear joint responsibility of making sure that the flat’s front door is a fire door.

Moreover, as a tenant of any flat, one can undergo training on what to do in the event a fire breaks out. This way, one will be more than equipped on the best way of dealing with a fire breakout.

 

Managing Agents and Landlords

Of course, the greatest responsibility should be borne by the landlord. This is because any building owner has a say in how their flats will be designed and fire safety needs to be a key priority especially in the common areas or shared facilities within the blocks. These include corridors, stairwells etc. However, in certain tower blocks, there can be a Residents’ Association that selects a member who is responsible for the fire safety of the block.

They are usually known as the ‘Responsible Person’ who is responsible for fire safety in your block’s communal areas. It is the responsibility of such a person to ensure that the flat has a valid Fire Risk Assessment for the building and that it complies with the UK law. Additionally, they need to ensure that the common areas have proper protection from fire and that all residents living in that block of flats are aware of the procedures and policies of the building’s fire safety. According to the Fire Safety Regulatory Reform Order – also known as RRO – it is a legal requirement to have a person that is responsible for the building’s fire safety.

The ‘Responsible Person’ designated for your flats is usually the first person anyone can contact if they want to find out more about the fire safety measures, procedures and policies for your flats or the purpose-built flat blocks. If you live in a flat and have no idea about the flat’s fire safety policies, it is time you looked for the fire safety ‘Responsible Person’.

 

Causes of Flat Fires

As mentioned, most flat fires are usually attributed to the careless nature of some residents. These include cigarettes that have not been put off properly and are disregarded and thrown out of windows. Back in 2016, a flat in a 17-storey block of flats almost got razed down by a fire that was believed to be in the living room of a flat on the second floor in Coventry City Centre. The fire department said that the fire was caused by a cigarette and that one man was treated for inhalation.

While in this case there were not many casualties, there have been other instances where people have lost lives and hundreds left homeless. If the fire had continued undetected and the firefighter team called in late, you can only begin to imagine the extent of the damage that would have been caused.

Another cause of fire is overloaded electrical sockets that lead to electrical faults. In the US for example, electrical fires account for 6.3 percent of fires that break out according to the country’s Fire Administration unit.

This translates to close to 24,000 fires. In 7 percent of the fire cases, there was an injured person while in 11 percent of the cases, someone lost their life. While some electrical fires occur due to issues in-house appliances or wiring failures, most of them occur due to mistakes that tenants make by overloading extension cords or electrical outlets.

Overloaded sockets can easily destroy a block of flats and a lifetime’s possessions leading to financial hardship, disrupted lives and incurred costs. There are safety measures that residents can take to ensure that no fire breaks out due to an overloaded electrical socket.

 

Other causes of Fire

Outdated wiring is another cause of electrical fires in flats. Old homes do not have the wiring capacity needed to shelve the heightened amounts of electrical appliances that average homes use today. These include air conditioners, microwaves, computers, video games and widescreen televisions. Breakers are meant to go off when too much electricity overloads circuits. However, old outdated breaker boxes in most cases usually have worn connectors that rarely work hence overloading the systems and causing an electrical fire.

Other common causes for electrical fires include light fixtures, light bulbs and lamps. Light fixtures and lamps have a certain wattage that is recommended. Installing a bulb that has a higher wattage can lead to an electrical fire. It is advisable to check the required bulb wattage on any lamp or lighting fixture and ensure that your bulb doesn’t go beyond the recommended amount. While placing a piece of paper or cloth over a lampshade may seem innocent, they can actually lead to a fire as the materials usually heat up and ignite. Faulty light fixtures and lamps also cause a fire.

Candles and iron boxes which are usually used in most homes can be a leading cause of a fire in a flat, especially when left close to a piece of cloth or papers. When through with ironing, it is advisable that you switch off the iron box from the main power socket to avoid causing fires. As we all know, candles in homes are not just used when there is a power blackout. Some people use the scented ones in their bathrooms while others use them to romanticize their dinner.

Either way, unattended candles can cause home fires. But these can be prevented. When using candles for whatever reason, it is important to ensure that there are no papers of pieces of cloth such as a curtain that easily gets blown by the wind. The safest way is to ensure that they are put off after each use.

 

Fire Safety Risks to Check

There are certain fire safety risks that you can check in the flat you live in to know how well your flat is equipped in the event a fire occurs.

 

  • Smoke Detectors

If you do not invest in any other fire safety detector in your home – even though we strongly recommend that you do – at least ensure that your home has a smoke detector. If your flat does not have one already, it is time that you got yourself a smoke detector for every room in your flat if possible. Smoke detectors are designed to act as an early warning in case a fire break out and make it possible for you to react quickly and get you and your family to safety as you call the emergency services.

Additionally, you can get specialists alarms that go beyond the standard alarms. These alarms are designed for those who cannot hear the normal alarms when they go off. The specialist alarms can be placed under the pillows and include vibrating and lights pads.

 

  • Fire Resistant Doors

No one ever plans to cause a fire. However, accidents do happen and while we never know when it is important to have certain measures in place such as a fire-resistant door. Fire-resistant doors are usually doors that are rated and used as a form of passive fire protection.

Fire-resistant doors work by preventing the spread of fire from one room to the other especially when the doors are closes. Depending on the material, they usually reduce about 90 percent of the heat from the fire making it safe for those trapped in other rooms to move to a safe area and contact emergency services. It is strongly advisable to have fire-resistant doors in your home in case a fire breaks out.

 

  • Know Your Fire Plan

The first thing that anyone moving to a new flat should do is to know or master – if possible – the flat’s fire plan. It is important to know the right exit routes from your flat in the event a fire breaks out. This is information that you cannot choose to forego.

Besides knowing the exit routes, it is crucial that you test them out as this could make a huge difference not only to you but to your family as well. Testing the emergency fire exit routes in your flat enables you to know what might block the path and how to deal with it in case you are fleeing an actual fire. It is not uncommon to have neighbours have prams and bikes at such exits.

Knowing this beforehand could go a long way in saving your life as well as of those around you.

 

  • Fire Extinguisher

One global requirement by most governments is the need to have a stipulated number of fire extinguishers in any building be it corporate or residential depending on the floor size. While most blocks of flats will always have a fire extinguisher in common areas, it is important to have your own fire extinguisher in your home.

This can easily be used to put out any little fire before it spreads out to other areas in the flat. If, however, you have never seen a fire extinguisher in your building, it is time you contact your agent or landlord.

 

Fire Risks Assessment for Flats

Every building owner knows that is important to carry out a fire risk assessment for their flats. Certain tenants will never move into a building unless they see the fire risk assessment that has been done on the building. These assessments have been a legal requirement since 2006.

Your landlord or agent has a legal obligation to ensure that they plan for a fire risk assessment that is meant for the communal are only. As such, if you are currently occupying a flat and have no idea of the potential risks that your communal area may pose, you may need to talk to your landlord or agent to get a better understanding.

Additionally, landlords who have not conducted a fire risk assessment should do so by involving the right bodies that are legally acceptable.

 

 

Get a Firechief Doorwarden to monitor your fire doors

The simple purpose of a fire door in everyday use is just the same as any other door. However, since a breakout of fire is never predictable, the fire door, unlike any other door, is then required to perform its main purpose as part of a building’s passive fire protection system, allowing all rooms to be separated off to contain a fire, protect the occupants and provide a safe, protected route of escape.

But although fire doors are a critical element in fire safety and a requirement in every commercial, public and multiple occupancy building, their importance in saving lives is often overlooked. I’m sure we can all think of fire doors that we have seen wedged open or held open by an odd box or two! These doors would simply be unable to close in the event of a fire, thereby putting the building’s occupants at significant risk.

Firechief is pleased to announce that it has the answer to this problem with the launch of a new product. The Firechief Doorwarden is a wireless fire door stop which legally holds open a fire door – until the fire alarm sounds that is.

How the Firechief Doorwarden works

The Firechief Doorwarden acoustic fire door retainer is installed on the facing side of the fire door. Once installed you simply select the “learn alarm feature” and set off your fire alarm for approximately 20 seconds. The Doorwarden will then learn your fire alarm and activate.

And unlike other door closers on the market, the Firechief Door Warden only responds to the sound of the fire alarm. Its anti-vacuum technology means it will not respond to vacuum cleaners or other ambient noise.

Other features of the Firechief Doorwarden include:
• Easy to install.
• Easy to upgrade from existing fire door retainers – the Doorwarden will fit straight onto the previous fire door retainer fittings
• Dynamic slim design, designed to be discreet on the fire door.
• Long battery life with an easy to use battery compartment.
• Controlled from the LCD screen. Easy night release function, time management system, fault reader and weekly test.
• USB: Software upgrades with special features available.
• Fully compliant with BSEN1155 and accepted by UK fire brigades.

The Firechief range of products set the standard for those who are seeking competitively priced, superior quality, UK-approved fire safety products. Look out for the Firechief brand for products you can trust to help keep you safe. Contact [email protected] or call us on 0330 999 0019

 

Firechief exhibits at Screwfix Live 2017!

All the latest Firechief fire safety products were on show at the Screwfix Live 2017 event in Farnborough this autumn.  Particularly popular were our 600kg Powder Extinguishers which are perfect for the kitchen, garage and car, along with fire blankets and the Flamebuster aerosol fire extinguisher.

The Firechief range of products set the standard for those who are seeking competitively priced, superior quality, UK-approved fire safety products.  Look out for the Firechief brand for products you can trust to help keep you safe.   You can find out more about our products by emailing [email protected] or calling 0330 999 0019

Firechief’s solution to on site Hot Work is all wrapped up!

Firechief has launched a Hot Work Kit – the first ‘all in one’ kit developed especially for contractors and tradesmen who carry out Hot Work on site. Each Hot Work Kit contains everything needed to do Hot Work safely – all wrapped up in a handy carry to site bag.

• 2kg ABC Powder Fire Extinguisher – approved to EN3
• 1.2 x 1.8m high performance industrial Fire Blanket, tested & approved to BSEN1869:1997 Annex C Fire Performance Test
• Plastic pocket for storage of Hot Work Permit forms

Why do you need a Hot Work Kit?

Welding, soldering, brazing, grinding and drilling are all known as ‘Hot Work’ and all pose fire risks – especially when working in areas containing flammable or combustible materials.

Hot Work is governed by strict safety regulations and by law all employers and self-employed contractors must assess the fire risks in a work area, obtain or self-complete a Hot Work permit for each job and ensure that the necessary fire safety equip¬ment is on site in case of an incident. Those who don’t comply can be investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), sentenced, fined and even jailed.

If your Hot Work is unavoidable, you must have a Hot Work Permit in place BEFOFE any work starts. A Hot Work Permit is completed and issued by someone who understands the fire risks fully – such as the site supervisor or the contractor responsible for the work – and summarises what work is to be carried out, when and what precautions are needed.

So, if you are responsible for completing a Hot Work Permit on a site, what should you consider?

Remove or reduce the fire risk

It is important to minimize risk as much as possible. Ideally, try to carry out all the Hot Work before most of the combustible material gets onto site or have a special area where all Hot Work is done or even better carry out all the Hot Work off site.

Protect, cover or shield

Give special consideration to coverings such as polythene which are weather proof but not fire proof as well as flammable liquids and acetylene which are another risk and be shielded or better still, stored off site.

Risks on larger sites

On larger sites, temporary buildings and cabins are also a risk as they usually contain heaters, fires and paperwork so whenever possible they should be separated from the new construction. There must also be site security to guard against arson as this is the most significant fire risk.

Fire risk assessments carried out on construction sites may need to be updated frequently as construction progresses; for example, escape routes and emergency procedures may need changing and emergency procedures too, and give consideration to inspecting the escape route on a weekly basis to ensure it is clear and that you have the best means of warning workers in case of emergency

The Firechief range of products set the standard for those who are seeking competitively priced, superior quality, UK-approved fire safety products. Look out for the Firechief brand for products you can trust to help keep you safe. Contact [email protected] or call us on 0330 999 0019