Rockwool welcomes new guidelines

Rockwool has welcomed the launch of the Health & Safety Executive’s second edition of its Fire Safety in Construction guidelines.

Rockwool supports the HSE’s assertion that fire safety needs to be managed from the earliest stage in a building’s conception, during the design stage and right through the building process. Site neighbours and adjacent property are also identified as being at risk from a potential fire large enough to spread off site.

The need to share information between all relevant parties regarding both the construction itself and the products used is viewed as a cornerstone to help reduce the risk from fire to an acceptable level. The HSE’s guidance is intended to support the compliance of individuals and organisations with the legal requirements of the Construction, Design and Management Regulations, the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005. Since the introduction of the RR(FS)O in 2006 and the associated requirement to produce risk assessments for identifying and reducing potential fire hazards, the need for such information is a vital component for ensuring the assessment will fulfil its intended function.

The updated guidance specifically addresses concerns regarding higher fire risk methods and materials of construction. It identifies certain building types which may be more vulnerable during the construction stage and provides guidance on the additional precautions which should be taken on sites viewed as being of higher risk from fire.

One aspect of the Guidance identifies that buildings constructed of composite (sandwich) panels can potentially be of higher fire risk and thus should also be given special consideration. The guidance states: “Many of the thermal insulating products used in sandwich panel systems are combustible (eg expanded polystyrene (EPS), extruded polystyrene (XPS), polyurethane (PUR), polyisocyanurate (PIR)). When openly exposed to a fire they will burn. Designers should consider the potential fire risks when specifying composite panels in the structure. The risk may be better controlled by specifying a non-combustible panel. As with other high-risk construction methods, incorrect installation, such as poor joint detailing and inadequate support, can lead to exposing combustible material directly to a fire condition.”

Civil engineering projects are also acknowledged as a higher risk potential in the event of a fire during the construction phase. Specific concern is focused on the distances and associated times required for safe escape. Once again, it is recommended that the fire risks are considered at the concept and design stages and are reviewed throughout the construction process. The role of a suitable qualified ‘competent person’ is stressed during the risk assessment process and that specific fire engineered measures may be required.

Paula Bateman, Corporate Affairs Director for Rockwool commented: “These revised HSE fire safety guidelines are a welcome addition to help improve site safety and promote greater fire protection for construction workers, residents and users of the completed buildings.

“The guidance rightly highlights that fire safety needs to be designed into a building from the start as the materials used in the construction and the way they are installed and protected can make a significant difference to fire containment and prevention. We also believe that it is also crucial for designers and developers to consider the impact of toxic smoke within buildings and the effect this can have on fire survival rates and the environment. Seeking specialist advice will help developers address these issues and ensure they get the right materials for each project which will vary depending on the building, how it is to be used and the way that it is designed and constructed.”

The report also highlights that property developers could struggle to obtain insurance cover for buildings unless they can demonstrate good fire safety standards, something that we are already seeing happening in the United States.

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