construction site evacuation

Construction site evacuation research reveals concerning findings

The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) recently funded research into the response of construction site workers to a fire evacuation drill on a live site – with some alarming findings.

The IOSH and researchers from the University of Greenwich selected two high-rise construction sites in London for a study into the responses of construction workers to a fire evacuation being called.

What happened in the construction site fire evacuation study?

The researchers carried out four full-scale unannounced fire evacuations, involving 932 workers operating on different levels in the building.

The normal evacuation response time is supposed to be in the order of two to three minutes. The evacuation times recorded in the trials ranged from nine minutes 14 seconds up to 20 minutes 47 seconds, which is quite concerning.

How did construction workers respond to the fire tests?

The researchers found that a third of workers spent between one and six minutes finishing a job before heading to the emergency exits.

In addition, a quarter of workers went on to complete at least four other activities such as collecting tools before exiting.

Video monitoring also showed that over four in ten workers didn’t leave the site until they had received a direct instruction from a supervisor to do so.

What was IOSH’s response to the research?

IOSH has issued some recommendations in response to study:

  • Ensure all workers on site respond quickly to fire alarms and don’t delay exiting by collecting tools and finishing tasks.
  • Ensure that all workers, even those on site for a short time, know what to do in the event of a fire alarm sounding.
  • Fire drills should be practiced and feedback given to workers afterwards.