Joint fire code
Construction sites are particularly vulnerable to fire. The losses that follow can be high, in economic terms as well as through delays, injury or loss of life. In the 1980's, insurers were beginning to question whether it was commercially viable to continue insuring construction sites. In 1992, the Joint Fire Code was first published, providing guidance on fire safety on site as well as the prevention and detection of fire.
The Joint Fire Code was widely welcomed and supported across the industry, both by designers, contractors and insurers. It is supported by the Association of British Insurers, the Chief Fire Officer Association and the Contractor's Legal Group, and is endorsed by institutions such as the RIBA, ICE, and HBF. There is now also close liaison with the Health and Safety Executive to ensure the code is aligned with HSG 168 Fire Safety in Construction Work.
The Joint Fire Code covers activities through all stages of design, procurement and construction. Generally it applies to contracts with a value of more than £2.5million, but it can also apply to lower value contracts which are considered to be high risk or which form part of larger projects.
The code describes '...a series of simple precautions and safe working practices (to) ensure that adequate detection and prevention measures are incorporated during the design and planning stages and that work on a site is undertaken to the highest standard of fire safety.'
The code is accompanied by the Construction Site Fire Prevention Checklist, which is in the form of a series of questions, responses to which can be used to create a record of compliance with the code.
Since its first publication in 1992, incidents of fire on site have reduced significantly.
On some construction contracts, the parties will be required to indicate whether the code applies (and whether the project is a 'large project' with a value of £20 million or more). Compliance with the code may also be a requirement of some insurance policies.
Requiring compliance with the code in a construction contract can lead to a reduction in insurance premiums, however, failure to comply with the code could then result in the withdrawal of insurance which might be considered a breach of contract.
In May 2009, significant changes were made to the Joint Fire Code in its seventh edition, including:
- Compliance with changes to the CDM Regulations.
- The introduction of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order.
- Specific guidance for high-risk sites and large timber-frame buildings.
- A new section on the use of acetylene.
- The provision of smoking shelters following the smoking ban.
- Changes to the requirements for the storage of combustible materials and the storage and burning waste on site.
- Reference to the legislative requirement to carry out fire risk assessments on construction sites.
- The introduction of a requirement to liaise with the fire and rescue service during the design process.
The eighth edition, a 'combo' edition included the fire prevention checklist. Other changes included:
- Updates to on-site fire precautions.
- A requirement for client-appointed parties such as designers and principal contractors to co-ordinate their activities during each phase of the contract.
- A new emphasis on the need to conduct periodic reviews of fire safety provisions on sites where a fire engineered approach has been taken.
The most recent edition, the ninth edition, launched in 2015 includes:
- Changes to reflect the introduction of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015.
- Guidance on the installation of photovoltaics.
- Changes to the hot work permit.
- Guidance on temporary automatic fire detection in large timber frame structures.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Breach of contract.
- Building regulations.
- CDM planning period.
- Construction phase plan.
- Contractors' all-risk insurance.
- Fire and rescue service.
- Fire authority.
- Fire dampers.
- Fire detection and alarm systems.
- Fire marshal.
- Fire protection engineering.
- Fire safety design.
- Fire risk assessments and historic buildings.
- Health and safety.
- Method statement.
- Pre-construction information.
- Principal contractor.
- Risk assessment.
- Security and the built environment.
- Smoke detector.
- Timber framed buildings and fire.
 External references
- The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order.
- Zurich, Guide to changes in the Joint Code of Practice.
- Construction Manager: Fire prevention on construction sites.
- HSE HSG168: Fire Safety in Construction Work.
- Protec, Procuring Joint Code of Practice Approved Fire Retardant Temporary Covering Materials.
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