Time to prioritise safety on site

Time to prioritise safety on site

From flame-free fittings to provision of training, ways to enhance fire safety should be a top priority for all building projects and construction sites writes Chris Meir, Sales Director, Conex Banninger Middle East.

In a region where daring designs and ambitious architectural feats dominate the construction landscape, project completion at any cost reigns supreme. For those operating in the building services industry, typically price, design and timely completion remain top priorities. Unfortunately, however, this can come at the cost of health and safety. 

Over the years, building services have flourished in the GCC, and now, the region acts as an exemplary model for growth across the construction industry. Consequently, more codified laws regarding health and safety on site have been introduced into the region. In fact, just earlier this year the UAE issued a new decree outlining legal measures to enhance health and safety for workers on site. However, there is still room for significant improvement. 

Working on projects with tight timelines, in challenging climate conditions, coupled with lack of site regulation and protective legislation compared to other global markets, the standards for health and safety on site in the region pale in comparison to their counterparts in the UK, USA and Europe.

It’s important to remember that every construction site is an ever-evolving environment, posing a new set of risks for workers not just by the day, but even by the hour. That’s why stringent health and safety regulations are so vital to protect the lives of those on site, and also to protect the reputation of the stakeholders involved in construction.

Therefore, the importance of abiding by certified global standards on site cannot be overstated. Health and safety measures on site must be given the importance they deserve. In my experience with Conex Bänninger, for example, the organisation is required to abide by EU Fire standards, regardless of the project location. 

Since the EU enforces some of the strictest fire safety regulations in the world, global manufacturers have the opportunity to apply these across all their markets and ultimately set the standard for health and safety in regions with less stringent legislation such as the Middle East and Africa.

Another opportunity to optimise health and safety lies in the actual systems specified and employed in the building. Those operating in the building services industry can support fire safety by using a system specifically designed to reduce the risk of fire accidents. Systems that are thoughtfully selected and installed to the manufacturer’s instruction play an essential part upholding health and safety on site.

Think about it. Construction sites are also a hotbed for fire hazards – literally. Currently, most pipework installations require a heat source for jointing, carried out through a process known as brazing. In this metal-jointing process, two or more metal items are joined together by melting and flowing a solder metal into the joint. The presence of a naked flame in this case can not only cause health and safety challenges, but also cause property damage on site.

This is where flame-free fittings can make a real impact. In addition to eliminating the use of a naked flame during installation and reducing the risk of fires on site, they also help to avoid any associated damages to property or human health. 

Flame-free fittings offer a safer alternative to brazing because they use an electro-mechanical press tool and jaws, instead of a flame, to create a secure and permanent joint, eliminating fire risk. They also offer time-saving benefits by enabling joints to be completed quicker and time by removing the fire watch period, required for a joint to cool following its completion. 

Flame-free fittings, such as press fittings, work by using a secure three-point press system to produce a permanent connection. Once initial preparation work is done, it takes just five seconds to complete the joint, allowing the installer to quickly proceed to the next one. Each new joint is the same as the previous, ensuring optimum joint quality and integrity through repeatability.

Furthermore, brazing can also produce carbon deposits in pipes, which can be transported into HVAC systems and present risks to climate comfort, human health and indoor air quality. So switching to flame-free fittings not only enhances health and safety on site, but also for the end user and occupants of buildings.

In my experience with Conex Bänninger Middle East, our innovative flame-free >B< press fittings can provide a secure and permanent joint, resulting in a leak-free system, which  is a crucial element to maintaining climate comfort and safety in buildings. In the region, pipework is often installed above the ceiling of each unit so leaks mainly come from above, which is particularly hazardous. Since systems that use flame-free fittings offering higher joint integrity, the risk of leaks of lowered, helping to secure the safety of end users and protect the reputation of property developers.

And the product itself is not the only way to enhance fire safety on site. While availability of labour is not a problem in the region, there is a shortage of skilled labourers. Brazing not only requires a heat source, but also typically requires AC&R technicians who can be more difficult to source. Press technology, however, can be learned quickly and easily. Companies can invest in training to upskill workers and certify them in the delivery of flame-free fittings. Companies who choose to partner with us have access to additional training resources – value-added benefit, and we encourage them to use it as a tool to train workers and deliver safer and stronger solutions.

Finally, let’s consider the increasingly essential role of technology in the construction industry, and how it can impact health and safety. Building information modelling (BIM) and digital work flows have been highlighted as a promising area to address some key issues. Accurate and dependable information flowing from planning, design, construction and operation of the building is necessary to ensure that regulations, standards and other stakeholder requirements are met. Essentially, BIM technology helps create much needed order and dependability in the construction process, enabling the delivery of robust fire safety measures both on site and in the end delivery of a project.

Evidently, the regional construction is in flux, moving towards the adoption of healthier, safer and more sustainable practices. This provides construction companies and related stakeholders with the unique opportunity to meet this growing demand. Furthermore, not only is there an increasing demand for healthier and safer solutions in the industry, but it is the duty and collective responsibility of all those who operate within the industry to prioritise human health at the heart of every project – whether that be on site for workers, or in the final project for building occupants. 

Leveraging flame-free fittings, providing training and embracing new technologies are impactful first steps that companies can take to amplify their journey towards health and safety.