Safety in Car Parks

Dr Shaun Lundy, Technical Director at 4site Consulting, explains why overlooking car parks can leave unrecognised a number of health, safety and fire risks.

Car parks may often be seen as an add-on to the building; however, this attitude can leave unrecognised a number of health, safety and fire risks. It is the dutyholder’s responsibility to ensure that all communal areas, including car parks, are safe for employees, residents and the general public. One important step in doing so, is having a Health, Safety and Fire Risk Assessment carried out.

In accordance with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, all non-domestic premises, including the communal areas of residential blocks, require a health, safety and fire risk assessment; this extends to the external communal areas.

Health, Safety and Fire Risk Assessment

Some of the things that are taken into consideration when a Health, Safety and Fire Risk Assessment is carried out on a car park are:

  • Slips and trips hazards
  • Fire doors
  • Means of escape
  • Lighting
  • Signage
  • Safety communication for contractors

Those responsible for the safety of the car park should be ensuring that there are no slip and trip hazards that may cause potential injury, such as uneven floor. They should also ensure that Fire Doors are sufficient and that fire exits are clearly labelled and kept clear. Regular property inspections should extend to include the car parks and the responsible person should be implementing a system of regular inspections to include: safety hazards, safe access & egress, means of escape, fire doors, signage, and lighting

Automatic Gates

Another safety aspect to consider with car parks is electric and automatic gates. Electric gate systems should be designed, fitted and maintained according to appropriate safety standards.

It is so important that all automatic gates are risk assessed and fitted with sufficient safety measures to prevent people from becoming trapped or injured. In fact, there have been a number of cases where safety measures were not put in place when gates were installed and checks/ risk assessments were not carried on the gates to ensure their safety before being handed over to clients. Some of these high-profile cases include children being fatally crushed due to gates not being properly installed and checked before hand over. This also highlights the importance of using safe contractors that have a safe working environment, adequately train employees, and deliver the relevant information, instruction and supervision.

Fire Safety in Car Parks: Kings Dock, Liverpool Echo Arena

One of the most severe risks for residential property is fire, and with cases such as Grenfell and the more recent Worcester Park fire, this is very much on the top of everybody’s agendas. The risk of fire in car parks should also be considered as the effects from this be just as devastating.

On Sunday 31st December 2017, New Years Eve, a huge fire broke out in the Kings Dock Car Park, close to the Liverpool Echo Arena. Nearby apartments had to be evacuated due to the immensity of smoke from the fire.

The car park was an 8-level open-sided construction, which had natural ventilation. Where a car park is well ventilated, there is usually low spread from one floor to another. However, the fire started with one car on the 3rd floor but rapidly spread to other cars and to other floors.

Current building regulations do not require open-sided car parks to have a sprinkler system fitted, although evidence suggests that with sprinklers fire is less likely to spread from car to car. Furthermore, a report released by Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service suggested that the fire could have been contained if sprinkler systems had been installed.

As well as spreading from car to car, the fire at the Kings Dock Car Park spread between the floors. Evidence suggests that this was initially due to a failing draining system in place, therefore, designers and those responsible should consider whether a car parks drainage system could aid fire spread between levels.

For further advice on health and safety in relation to car parks or any other areas, please contact 4site Consulting directly on 01376 572936 or office@4siteconsulting.co.uk.

 

Reviewed: October 2019