Head of Content, IFSEC and FIREX

Author Bio ▼

Charlotte Geoghegan (nee Wright) is Head of Content for the Protection & Management portfolio, which includes IFSEC and FIREX live events and IFSEC Global.com
June 29, 2015

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Fire Safety at CrossRail – Europe’s Largest Construction Project

How does fire safety compare in concert halls and construction sites? How do evacuation procedures differ in exhibition venues and smart offices?

To find out, Protecting London is investigating landmarks across the capital to reveal how they operate on a day-to-day basis.

For Episode 3 we meet Stephen-Remell Coleman, who is Watch Manager B with the Fire Brigade and Transport Liaison Officer seconded on to the Crossrail project.

The high frequency, high capacity railway project is Europe’s largest infrastructure project; a complex operation with 40 sites, 40,000 workers and 42km of new tunnels under the busy streets of London.

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Stephen carries out fire assurance assessments across all London sites and his role has been created specifically for fire mitigation. He works closely with the London Fire Brigade, as well as the police and Crossrail’s security and safety teams.

Crossrail construction phases

When we ask Stephen about fire safety during construction he breaks it down into three main stages.

  • Stage 1 – Tunnelling
  • Stage 2 – M.E.P. (Mechanical and Electrical Planning)
  • Stage 3 – Testing the running rail

And it’s stage two, he tells us, which carries the most fire risks, “because that’s where you have all of the fire loading and flammable materials”.

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Fire assurance assessments

When Stephen first started the fire assurance assessments, he found with temporary (‘hacky’) stairs used up and down the shafts weren’t necessarily fire-rated for working at a height. “For me that was a big no-no. That’s your first point of access.”

So a report was put together, which went through relevant channels and since then all the fire rated netting and all the hacky stairs are fire-rated.

“The second you walk onto the sites, you get a flavour for what sort of things you’re going to expect, because you’ll look at their signage, their muster points… We want to look for access egress. And we’re looking for fire-fighter water that we can use to safely put out a fire.”

The role of Crossrail’s fire wardens

During fire assurance assessments Stephen also talks to fire wardens to make sure they completely understand their duties.

In the event of an incident wardens must go from floor to floor, clearing people out and prioritising anyone who’s immobile or sight/hearing impaired. They’ll be required to give a register to the London Fire Brigade Incident Commander, who then works out whether anyone inside who needs rescuing.

Some fire wardens are also responsible for making sure fire extinguishers are within test date.

Crossrail Stepping Up Week

To drive home the important of health & safety, Crossrail embarks on ‘Stepping Up Week’ twice a year. So Stephen uses it as an opportunity to educate workers on fire prevention and protection.And he’s found that the most effective way of communicating the importance of fire safety is by giving real-life accounts of fatal incidents he’s attended, often where someone has died because basic fire safety and health & safety rules that haven’t been followed.

“And when I tell these stories it really hits home to these people, and they say that they can communicate the information that I’m giving them better through these stories that I tell, rather than having a PowerPoint presentation given to them. So stepping up week really does heighten people’s awareness of health & safety.”

Target Zero

Crossrail describe Health & Safety and ‘target zero’ as their number one value, their philosophy. Everything they do is based on the following 3 core principles. They believe…

  • Everyone has the right to go home unharmed
  • All harm is preventable
  • Everyone must work together to achieve this

Backing up this philosophy are ‘The Golden Rules’ which focus on daily behaviours that are common across all our activities. Put briefly, they are as follows:

  1. Respect the basics
  2. Assess the risks
  3. Check the site
  4. Follow site requirements
  5. Support each other

It’s this mindset and dedication to world-class safety which Stephen credits with much of their success: “There haven’t been any major fires in the tunnelling area and I think that’s because of our proactive approach to health & safety and making sure everything we can mitigate, we do.”

More about fire safety in iconic London landmarks

Hear more about the Crossrail project in Protecting London Episode 3.1 with Crossrail Security Manager, David Buck.

You might also enjoy Protecting London Episode 1 with Health & Safety Manager of The British Museum amd Protecting London Episode 2 with Director of Operations at the Royal Albert Hall.

Free download: Fire Safety Guide

Know your fire safety responsibilities.

Business owners have many responsibilities, but the consequences of neglecting your fire safety responsibilities are potentially unthinkable.

Download this guide to get:

  • A beginner’s guide to the Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order
  • Your guide to fire risk assessments
  • Further guides covering fire doors, fire alarm systems, smoke detectors, fire escape signs, sprinklers, water-mist systems and fire safety training

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