Just in case it has been missed by everybody in the industry, the Health and Safety Executive has published an amendment to HSG168. In layman’s terms that’s the amendment to the guidance for managing fire strategy on building sites. This is a very thought-provoking document.

HSG168 attempts to give guidance on all aspects of fire safety and strategy to adopt. As has become accepted in safety circles, all revolves around that good old back stop of risk assessment. But what we actually must do is to ensure that a sound fire safety culture is instilled with site personnel. When working with timber framed and high-risk buildings, this must be especially prevalent.

Note the use of the word culture. When I carry out inspections on our sites now, the second thing I do (the first is signing in) is to press the fire alarm and see how long it takes for the site personnel to respond. If they respond immediately, you can be confident there is a sound fire safety culture on site. If the reaction is something along the lines of, “What’s that noise?” you know the culture is not there! This fire safety culture is vitally important, especially in the construction of timber frame and high-risk buildings and MUST be actively encouraged by attentive site management.

The sheer realism of fire outbreak on a building site leaves a lasting effect on one’s memory, as I can testify to. One day you are at the contract you take for granted and want to complete. The next day it is no longer there. Destroyed by a phantom.

Fire safety culture costs nothing other than constant pestering. If pestering means I will save lives, then pester I will. So should we all. HSG168 will then really have done its job.

Sid Clark, safety, health, environmental and quality manager, Lakehouse