Here Paul Henson, Sales and Marketing Director at Ramtech Electronics, looks at why Dubai Civil Defence’s new Fire and Fire Safety Code has the ability to transform construction sites for the better.
Fire safety on construction sites has always been a concern especially due to the presence of flammable materials and hot works. As such, there are many factors to consider when looking for an effective way of protecting personnel and assets from fire on a construction sites. A clear means of escape, compartmentalisation to protect workers as well as escape routes, plus managing the safe storage of hazardous materials are just some of the factors that have to be taken into account
An increasing number of construction managers and health & safety executives are also realising that a wireless fire alarm system can make the single greatest difference to survival rates in a fire. These fire alarm systems tend to be technology-based, using a wireless signal to interconnect call points, mainly because they are easy to set up and construction sites are getting larger and more complex.
Setting the benchmark
Fire safety on UK construction sites has advanced considerably in the last few years. That is not to say that there still isn’t work to be done, and only last year the UK insurance industry made it clear that there was now an expectation that construction sites should be protected by a fire alarm system that complies with JCoP’s (Joint Code of Practice) 9th edition. Effectively, that means fire alarm systems used on site should comply with the relevant sections of EN 54.
There are good reasons for this continued focus on fire safety, both here in the UK and overseas. For instance, UK Home Office statistics reveal as many as 104,000 fires occur on construction sites throughout England and Wales each year, with more than 40 per cent of them a result of arson. A consequence of this is that we have been very active in highlighting the importance of specifying an EN 54 compliant fire alarm system, and it is encouraging to see the insurance industry running a parallel programme.
The message is filtering out to a wider audience, too, and we have recently been working with the Dubai Civil Defence in order to contribute specification recommendations on fire safety on the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) new Fire and Fire Safety Code. The proactive steps taken by the Dubai Civil Defence is part of the UAE’s drive to maintain the highest fire safety standards on construction sites. The Civil Defence choose to work with us because our technology is the only system that has been verified by international tests houses, meaning it complies with JCOP, including EN54 and carries independent CE marking, verifying that it complies with all appropriate European Directives.
Dubai national fire standard
Our close working relationship with a number of main contractors in UAE meant that we were in the best position to provide input on fire alarm systems when Dubai Civil Defence was putting together its national fire standard for construction sites. There is currently a lot of construction activity in the UAE and the recently published Fire and Fire Safety Code are being widely adopted. In the case of the UAE fire code, similar to the UK, contractors need to ensure that they are specifying a fire alarm system that has been independently tested to EN 54. The recommendations we give to contractors is to ask for appropriate test documentation:
Once a fire alarm system has passed all the testing required by EN 54, which must be completed by an approved body, it can be certified as such. This is done by means of a Declaration of Performance, an official document in which the conformity of the product to the appropriate standards is declared and illustrated with reference to specific product characteristics.
Once the appropriate Declarations of Performance have been completed, the product may be CE marked. In terms of verifying that this documentation is on place you need to ask your supplier for:
i) A Declaration of Performance for each type of unit within the fire alarm system (base station, manual call points and automatic heat/smoke detectors). These are your proof that the product you’re considering has been tested to the appropriate governing standards. You should expect a full fire alarm and detection system to include references to different sections of EN 54, as each unit type should be tested against its corresponding section(s) of the standard. For example, a wireless call point should be tested against sections 3, 11 and 25 if it includes an alarm device.
ii) Check the CE mark on the product – if it’s been certified by a Notified Body you’ll see a four digit number after the mark denoting which test house has tested and certified the product. If there’s no such number, the product has not been tested and certified in accordance with the latest and most stringent legislation. The product would normally be marked with the approval mark of the Notified Body as well as the CE mark.
Wired vs wireless fire alarm systems
The principal benefit of using an EN 54 wireless fire alarm system compared to a wired version is that it avoids the need for specialist trades to install fixed-wire cabling. That makes placing the fire alarm call points, active heat detectors and smoke detectors a simple process – there is no need for wires and an unlimited number of units can be paired wirelessly with just a few button presses. In addition, as the site work progresses, the wireless units can be quickly repositioned, again without the inconvenience of having to deal with cabling.
A wireless fire alarm system comprises manual fire alarm call points that are installed on site in accordance with the project’s Fire Plan. These call points are designed so that the system is interlinked, which means that all floors receive the same audible and visual alert signal, even if the fire is contained to just one of them. No wires are necessary and once the alarm is triggered personnel can quickly evacuate to a muster point. The alarm can be manually triggered by personnel from any call point. Incorporating automatic heat or smoke detectors into the system provides automatic cover 24/7, ensuring that the site is protected even when personnel are not present.
The UAE has raised fire safety standards on construction sites and in doing so set an example of what can be achieved by a collaborative approach between construction sites, legislators and suppliers. Construction companies in the UAE that invest in tested and independently verified fire alarm systems that comply with the new Fire and Fire Safety Code, and defacto with other international standards including EN 54, are demonstrating that they are prepared to do what it takes to protect their workers and clients’ assets.”
To ensure your site has the best possible protection for workers and assets, whilst complying with the new EN54 standard, call the WES+ helpline on: 00 44 (0) 115 822 3424.
For more information, go to www.wesfire.co.uk
Top image: Construction companies that comply with Dubai’s new Fire and Fire Safety Code, and defacto with other international standards including EN 54, are minimising risk to workers on site and protecting their client’s asset.