Managing Risks In Cladding Removal - 4 Cladding Services

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Managing Risks In Cladding Removal

cladding on building

Since the Grenfell disaster, cladding removal has been monitored and regulated much more thoroughly. However, there are still numerous risks involved in removing cladding from residential and commercial buildings. 


The Grenfell disaster has brought much more thorough procedures and protocols regarding the types of cladding that can be used, much more stringent use of materials in the higher brackets of the ranking system of cladding and how cladding should be safely removed. Cladding also has features aimed at preventing a fire taking hold. However, this does not eliminate the fire risk that removing cladding from a building poses. Although many systematic failures contributed to the Grenfell disaster, like using wrongly-rated cladding in the building, removing cladding is still a hazardous process that needs to be appropriately managed. This must be done to ensure the safety of workers and residents of the building. 


Many factors still contribute to the removal of cladding that makes it a risky and dangerous process, such as location, type of building, and the amount of cladding to be removed. In this article, we will take a thorough look at the risks involved with cladding removal and how we can manage this process to make it a much safer and more straightforward process.


Risks When Removing Cladding

With some types of the materials in the cladding ranking system being so highly combustible, it is crucial to take care during the removal process. If a fire breaks out and reaches the cladding, it has the potential to catch fire and spread through the building, despite cladding having preventative features designed to stop it catching fire. Many different composites and materials used to make up cladding are highly combustible and, as such, need to be treated with the utmost care to ensure a safe removal process. 


With the risk of fire breaking out while exposing and removing cladding, there must be procedures in place for safe removal. Managing risks when removing cladding from buildings can be challenging because it is a dangerous material to deal with. For this reason, it is of the utmost importance that risks are appropriately handled. 


As there is no legal requirement to remove ACM (aluminium composite material) cladding from buildings under an 18-metre height limit, a human element also comes into play. Working at height with highly combustible material adds extra risk, eliminating a significant amount of time to evacuate a building should a fire begin to take hold. 


Ignition of cladding can potentially take place due to something as small as a hot spark landing on a combustible material. In the construction industry, this is a factor that always comes into play when working with cladding. With the ignition of cladding occurring easily, risks must be managed properly to ensure the safety and efficiency of the removal job. 


Managing The Risks Involved

With cladding being such a potentially dangerous material in the right mixture of circumstances, managing fire risks is essential to the safety of workers, occupiers of the building and the general public. We will explore how to manage any fire risks that come from removing cladding and how this can make the process safer.


  • Sources of ignition

When dealing with a highly combustible material like cladding composites, ignition sources should be eliminated from the site as much as possible. This is not restricted to work equipment and extends to establishing non-smoking sites when cladding is removed. Designated smoking areas for workers are established in these jobs. 


Only hand-powered or electrical tools should be used on-site during these jobs. This is because they pose a lower risk than other tools as a potential ignition source for materials like cladding with such a combustible nature. As well as this, no flammable solvents should be used when removing any adhesives that have been used to attach cladding to the building structure. 


  • Use the right lighting

Using heated lighting next to highly combustible material could pose a safety risk if left in this state for a prolonged period of time. When looking at which lighting to use, choose LED lighting wherever possible. LED lights have a low surface temperature and are strongly preferred for this kind of job as they largely remove any ignition risk through lighting heat. 


Suppose a heat-emitting light is damaged and placed onto a scaffolding board. This could become an ignition risk and should be avoided completely when working around exposed cladding. Avoiding all heated lighting when cladding is involved is heavily advised when looking to manage risk levels.


  • Don’t use hot equipment

Hot works like cutting torches and angle grinders should be avoided in any possible situation when working around cladding. Any use of this equipment should be carefully planned and controlled to ensure that any fire risk from the use of this equipment is minimal. A risk assessment should be carried out to identify this equipment’s risk and if it is necessary. 


When working with hot equipment, it is also important to put a fire watch in place immediately after work is completed with this equipment. A fire watch will keep the area under constant review for approximately 1 hour to ensure the heat does not cause a delayed fire breakout, especially in a dry working environment. A fire watch should be put in place every time work with this equipment has been carried out to ensure workers are always on hand to tackle any emerging fires. Despite cladding being a combustible material and having preventative features designed to not catch fire, some materials used are flammable and have the potential to catch fire quickly if cladding is exposed.


This process keeps the area under surveillance and increases efficiency on the job as the area is constantly kept under timed conditions.


  • Early fire detection

Suppose a fire does break out and reaches any cladding or insulation is removed. In that case, it has the potential to seriously affect both workers and occupiers of the building. If a fire does break out in this case, there needs to be a clear fire detection alarm system that will quickly alert both the workers and residents of the building and give them enough time to evacuate the area. 


It is important that any fire detection system is not limited to where the fire is located but notifies the full building. Fire can spread extremely quickly through the cladding and rapidly engulf a building. Everyone in the building needs to be notified immediately to ensure their safety should the fire take hold of the rest of the cladding before it can be extinguished. 


Ensure the work area alarm system and the building’s alarm system are interconnected to assure that everyone is alerted to any potential fire breaking out as soon as possible. 


Contact Us

Removing cladding can be a difficult job that requires the right equipment. If you have any questions about how we can help you with anything cladding, get in touch with us today! Our fantastic team of experts are more than happy to answer your questions and show you our great range of equipment that will make your cladding jobs easier and safer.


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