We received a query from a subscriber asking what the Joint Fire Code was and whether we had more information on it.
What is the Joint Fire Code?
Its full title, Fire Prevention on Construction Sites: The Joint Code of Practice on the Protection from Fire of Construction Sites and Buildings Undergoing Renovation tells its own story. Sadly, the Joint Fire Code is not freely available online. (It is published jointly by the RISCAuthority, Construction Confederation and the Fire Protection Association (FPA), and is available to purchase from the FPA’s website.)
The FPA publishes a checklist alongside the Joint Fire Code, which seeks to transcribe the Joint Fire Code’s key requirements into a question and answer document that can be completed on site. The checklist is also available to buy from the FPA website.
The latest version (the seventh edition) of the Joint Fire Code was published in May 2009.
JCT contracts: is it a large project?
You are perhaps most likely to have come across the Joint Fire Code because the old-style JCT Appendix and the new (JCT 2005 edition) JCT Contract Particulars require the parties to state whether the Joint Fire Code applies and whether the project is a “large project”. (For example, see our practice note on insurance under the JCT Design and Build Contract.)
The Joint Fire Code applies to projects with an original contract value of £2.5 million or more. A large project is one with an original contract value of £20 million or more (paragraph 1, Joint Fire Code).
Key risk of non-compliance
The risk in failing to comply with the Joint Fire Code is that, in the words of a note in paragraph 2:
“If compliance with this Code forms part of the insurance contract, non-compliance with this Code could possibly result in insurance ceasing to be available or being withdrawn, resulting in a possible breach of a construction contract which requires the provision of such insurance.”
Sticking with the JCT building contracts, this is not just an issue for contractors. Remember that, under JCT Insurance Option C, it is the employer who may be in breach of the building contract if a failure to comply with the Joint Fire Code means that insurance is not available or is withdrawn.
Design phase also affected
The Joint Fire Code applies to the procurement and design phase, as well as the construction phase of a project. As such, it is not enough to first think of the Joint Fire Code on site. However, in practice, following industry good practice and complying with the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 should mean that you are well-placed to meet the design stage requirements.
Statement of best practice
The Joint Fire Code’s suggestions and requirements are largely statements of common best practice. That does not lessen the importance of the Joint Fire Code in its context. To illustrate, hot works are known to cause fires on construction sites (for example, in Biffa Waste Services Ltd and Another v Maschinenfabrik Ernst Hese GmbH and Others  EWCA Civ 1238), and the Joint Fire Code has specific guidance on those works (paragraph 16, Joint Fire Code).
Recent changes (differences between the sixth and seventh editions)
The seventh edition of the Joint Fire Code has been updated to take account of, for example:
- The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007.
- The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
- The smoking ban.
Other changes to the seventh edition of the Joint Fire Code include:
- New best practice for timber frame buildings (Annex A).
- A new paragraph on Acetylene (paragraph 15).
- Tougher rules on hot work (paragraph 16).