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Close sites if fire strike a risk to safety, says ICE

CONTRACTORS SHOULD shut down sites during the fire fighters' strikes if there is evidence that lack of rescue expertise would compromise worker safety, the Institution of Civil Engineers said this week.

The call was backed on Tuesday by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) The ICE fears that the 12,500 Army personnel who will attempt to cover for the 52,000 strong Fire Service lack the specialist knowledge and expertise to rescue fire and other accident victims.

Risks are especially high on high rise sites or on those with deep excavations, said the ICE.

The HSE said it was also worried about refurbishment jobs as existing buildings tended to incorporate more flammable material.

The ICE and HSE urged project teams to re-evaluate their risk assessments in the light of the strike. It expects that on many sites there will be no option but to stop some activities on strike days.

'Risk assessments will show that there is no viable alternative without the safeguards provided by the Fire Service for some activities, ' said ICE Health & Safety board co-ordinator Peter Fry.

This week the government emphasised the importance of risk assessment, and recommended that activities that carry an increased risk of fire, such as welding, be delayed.

The Health & Safety Executive echoed this line and was developing specific guidelines for the construction industry as NCE went to press.

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