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Creating an effective fire barrier during construction in healthcare environments

When construction is being carried out within healthcare environments, fire safety is an obvious concern. Patients and employees need to be protected against the risk of fire whilst work is carried out.

Each year there are a number of serious fires on construction sites and buildings undergoing refurbishment, but many could be avoided by careful planning and control of work activities.

The law relating to fire safety

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 sets out the law on construction site general fire safety, including means of escape.

Additionally, the CDM Regulations 2015 also impose duties including the requirement to prevent risk from fire. The fire risk from site activities must be assessed and precautions taken to control both combustible material and ignition sources. The quantity of combustible materials on site should be kept to the minimum and all materials safely stored and used. Internal stores, especially in more enclosed buildings, may need to be separated from the rest of the structure by a partition providing at least 30 minutes’ fire resistance.

Action should also be taken to eliminate, reduce and control ignition sources on site. Ignition sources include hot work, plant and equipment, smoking, electrical installations, bonfires and arson.

Creating an effective fire barrier during construction is just one way of minimising the risk of fire causing harm to those within the vicinity. The role of a fire barrier is to contain the fire at its source, stopping it from spreading into adjacent areas.

During construction works within a hospital, it may be necessary to segregate the works away from patients and employees, or create internal site rooms for contractors – in these instances it is important that the partitions used are fire rated to certain standards.

What does ‘fire rated’ mean?

There are a multiple types of fire rating to consider when assessing whether your fire barrier is ‘fire rated’:

Fire resistance: this means a raging fire can’t pass through the barrier for 30 or 60 minutes

Integrity: this means flames don’t come through the barrier

Insulation: this means the barrier won’t glow red hot

Surface spread of flame: the fire won’t spread across the surface – simulating a waste bin burning in corner of a room

Ignitability: this means the material will self-extinguish so is not at risk of being ignited if, for example, a match is applied at the bottom

Self extinguishing: inherently resistant to catching fire and does not melt or drip when exposed directly to extreme heat

Contribution to a fire: this determines whether a separate fire next to the materials, would be enhanced by the product being there

How are fire ratings measured?

The above fire ratings are measured according to British and European standard tests. All British standards use the product identifier “BS” and all British adoptions of European Standards are identified with “BS EN.”

However, the tests vary from industry to industry so there are a multitude of tests. There are also differing requirements for both temporary and permanent applications which also need to be taken into consideration.

For walls and partitions, the following British and European standards apply:

BS 476:Part 21:1987:Section 8
BS 476:Part 22:1987:Section 5
Fire Test Study Group Resolutions 43, 47, 50, 53, 60, 70, 71, 72, 77 and 83
ISO 834-1:1999/Amd:2012
ISO 834-3:2012
BS EN 1365-1:2012
BS EN 1364-1:2015
BS EN 1363-2:1999
BS EN 13381-2:2014
ASTM E119 (excluding hose stream test)

There are also insurance tests that are governed by the Loss Prevention Council (LPS), which are widely accepted.

The British Standards Specification makes it clear that when installing any fire safety items or equipment in a premises it is vital that it meets the highest quality standard and is installed correctly.

Westgate’s 60 minute Firescreen hoarding

Westgate’s Hoardfast Firescreen is a modular steel-faced fire-safe paneling system designed for screening areas from building and renovation works. This system comprises of panels tested for 60 minutes fire integrity and insulation. It is fire-rated to EN 13501- 2 & EI60 – equivalent to BS 476-22 (fire resistance), BS 476-6 & 7 (surface spread of flame and propagation of flame) as well as BS 476 -11 (limited combustibility, thus exceeding the Class 0 classification).

When the surrounding substrates permit a suitable installation technique, a fully rated compartment wall can be created. The mineral wool filled Firescreen panels slot together easily with a tongue and groove fixture, providing quick installation times.

Hoardfast Firescreen has already been used in many hospital construction sites such as University College London Hospital and Christies Hospital Manchester.

Download a PDF version of this article.

Hoardfast Firescreen
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