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Buildings undergoing building works

Hazard Knowledge

Building work may include demolishing parts of a building to make structural alterations. Information should be obtained to confirm the location of any alterations, the structural integrity of the building and of any temporary works being used to support parts of the structure. Temporary works can range from a few 'Acrow props' to major steelwork structures.

This hazard may be amplified if the building is occupied or part-occupied, or if the work is unregulated, substandard or not subject to the appropriate inspections.

Buildings may become more hazardous if fire protection features are removed or disabled. Fire alarm panels may indicate the zone of detection when the fire or smoke has actually spread from an isolated zone.

Escape routes may be altered as building work progresses or they may be compromised by obstructions, making escape for occupants or firefighters difficult.

Any alterations should be reflected in the fire risk assessment, along with temporary measures being put in place. The responsible person (or appointed competent person) should be able to provide this information to the incident commander.

From outside, it may not look as though building work is ongoing or that the structure is not complete, with holes in floors, walls and temporary load bearing supports. Structural alterations may have an impact on the stability of the building, even when not involved in fire. Breaches in compartmentation during works could result in rapid spread of fire and smoke.

The responsible person (or appointed competent person) should be able to provide information regarding the construction method being used and the phase the building works are in. They should be able to confirm if there are any hazardous materials on site and if an asbestos survey has been carried out.

Large quantities of combustible building materials may be stored on the site during various phases of the project, and they may have a direct impact on the incident due to the effect of fire loading. The status of utilities and temporary supplies that may have been installed should be considered.

Fire and rescue services may not have been made aware of building work being carried out in a building and therefore will not hold any up-to-date risk information. When consulting on building regulations applications, local authority building control should inform fire and rescue services about proposed building work. Operational information regarding building work should be circulated.

In domestic properties, building alterations could include removing a chimney breast, leaving the chimney above poorly supported and liable to collapse if disturbed. The load this places on a wall makes collapse more likely.