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At the end of July, Dubai World's construction safety department of EHS (Environment, Health and Safety regulatory arm of Dubai World), announced the introduction of new measures to guard against fire accidents during construction.

Mark Warrington
Mark Warrington

But what are they and what do they mean? facilities management Middle East catches up with Mark Warrington, EHS's vice president of construction safety.

Why did EHS introduce the new regulations?

After the unfortunate events of fires in high-rise buildings in Dubai, it was seen as an ideal opportunity to use the negative attention as an impetus to enforce the standards that exist. The requirements we are looking at for fire safety in high-rise buildings come from the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) codes which relate to fire prevention and fire systems during construction.

Who are they aimed at?

In Dubai, responsibility for construction rests with the consultant and the main contractor. That's where we are expecting compliance. Developers we've met accept they have to comply and have also looked at something like the Fortune Tower and seen that six or seven months after the fire, there's very little progress been made.

What does EHS hope they will achieve?

Improved fire safety systems during construction. When you design a building, the permanent solutions are to the (NFPA) code requirements and meet international standards. But during construction, it's a point that has to be driven because sometimes people fail to see the economic sense of investing money during construction to safeguard a building.

The new regulations state a building has to conform once it reaches 24 meters. Why is this?

It's actually 23.5 but it's referenced 24 to 30. The 23.5 meters is where the NFPA code identifies high-rise. So we've rounded it up. At 24 they can apply for certification but they can't go any further than 30 before they have to have it in place.

What penalties will contractors face if they do not comply?

If contractors fail to comply they are subject to financial penalties and they can also have stop work notices imposed on them. But we have to approach it in a practical way.

We said that from the middle of June we could start taking further action but we recognised the enormity of what we are asking for. For example, if you go for a certified temporary fire door, you're looking at 22 weeks to get one delivered. So we've allowed the contractor to come up with some practical solutions.

We're in a position where we can't have high-rise construction grind to a halt, so we are managing it in a practical way and we've allowed contractors to come back to us with a programme of compliance.

Are you doing anything post-construction?

Within EHS we have a mix of EHS reviews and fire department reviews. We ensure the requirements of the code are integrated and designed into that building. It's common that we'll send drawings back with comments or ask for further details. They don't get approved until our fire department is fully satisfied that all the fire systems in place meet the necessary requirements for the life-cycle of the building.

Do you have much involvement with fms once the building has been handed over?

My window of practicing is during construction, but once I've finished and the building becomes occupied, the responsibility of ensuring the standards are complied with is passed to the operational side of the business.

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