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Danger of hot works during building renovation highlighted

The dangers of fires caused by hot works such as welding and grinding was highlighted recently in a fire at a school in Derbyshire.

Fires caused by hot works on construction or renovation sites are of course not new. There are however ways to potentially prevent such a fire incident, that can quickly become out of control. Tragically, the fire destroyed the Harrington Junior School in Long Eaton in late May, although fortunately there were no serious injuries.

“This fire really highlights the dangers of hot works,” comments John Newbury, Product Innovation Director at Ramtech, whose headquarters are based only a few miles away from the school. “It’s so sad that this situation led to the destruction of an entire school when there are ways of early detection that could have made the fire more manageable. Timing is crucial in these types of fires.”

Group manager Dean Gazzard, the Officer in command during the school fire, commented to the media that: “Workers carrying out the refurbishment of the school did everything they could to contain the fire and prevent its spread before the arrival of firefighters…”. It is clear from this statement that the on-site workers tried to stop the fire once it had started, however the sooner a potential fire is detected the more chance there is to stop it spreading.

That is where a system such as Ramtech’s WES system can help. Ramtech’s WES wireless fire and emergency alert system includes automatic heat detection. Typically mounted on a ceiling or stand, the heat detector units trigger automatically when abnormal heat levels are detected, giving an early warning of potential fires.

In addition, the system also includes a dust resistant smoke detector, a unique feature of the WES solution. The dust resistant smoke detector differentiates between dust and smoke which would ordinarily lead to many false alarms if using a standard smoke detector in a construction environment. These automatic detectors can be supported by manual call points, which once pushed can give a warning of potential emergencies early.

WES systems have been used on many renovation projects in the UK, such as at the University of Bristol and Great Scotland Yard in London. “WES has been specifically designed to be easy to install and move around, so it’s ideal for renovation projects as the units can be relocated simply – they are wireless so don’t need any complex installation and they are ready to go very quickly. In fact, you can have a fully functioning, paired system in under 15 minutes,” says John Newbury.

Commenting after the school fire, Kumu Kumar, Head of Risk Engineering at insurance firm Zurich, said: “As the recent blaze that destroyed Harrington Junior School in Long Eaton highlights, hot work remains a constant threat, and more action is needed to tackle the problem. Although the construction industry has well-established safeguards in place, hot work fires are continuing to break out with alarming regularity.”

Zurich takes the situation so seriously that they have published guides into hot works safety. In their own data, Zurich1 claim that 15% of all fires in commercial and industrial properties are caused by hot works, so this is clear evidence that the risk is high, especially during construction when hot works such are welding and grinding are commonplace.

The sad reality of this is that devices such as the WES system, thermal imaging and training can help to dramatically reduce the potentially risk of fire from hot works – which could save lives and save potentially millions of pounds.

For more information on Ramtech and WES system, call 00 44 (0) 115 957 8282.