Tracking workers for fire safety in high-rise construction

High-rise construction is becoming more common in Finland, especially in the Helsinki metropolitan area, where 16-story residential buildings are becoming part of everyday life. In the Kalasatama neighborhood there are multiple 100+ meter apartment buildings.

High-rise construction also comes with challenges, including requirements for fire safety on the project site. One of these requirements is to track where workers are on the site so that rescue workers can locate people in the event of a fire.

Why is fire danger higher during construction?

At a construction site, the risk of a fire hazard is much higher than in a completed building. The more floors in the building, the higher the risk level. Some of the factors that increase the risk level are:

  • Welding and other sources of sparks and heat
  • Electrical wiring installation
  • Use of flammable gases as fuel
  • Flammable building materials and packaging at the site
  • Fire compartmentalization is not yet completed
  • Automatic fire extinguishing systems are not yet operating
  • The number of people working in the building site is large and can be greater than the number of occupants
  • The construction site is a changing environment and can contain a lot of unknowns for rescuers
  • Getting out of the upper floors is more difficult than in a completed building with finished emergency exits
  • Site access may not be as clear or as easy for rescue workers vs in a finished building

Authority regulations on fire safety in high-rise construction

In addition to the fire safety requirements that apply to all buildings, there are also high rise-specific regulations. The rest of this post looks specifically at regulations in Helsinki and the exact same regulations don’t necessarily apply in other cities in Finland.

Helsinki building supervision authority

The Helsinki building supervision authority (Helsingin rakennusvalvonta) has published instruction sheets for high-rise construction. These sheets are mandatory requirements that builders must follow. For fire safety, the guidelines take effect when the building reaches 56 meters in height. Fire safety guidelines are found in the section “PAL-10” and include requirements, among other things, to:

  • Maintain fire safety plans
  • Ensure lines of communcation between different areas of the site
  • Plan and implement smoke control measures, fire compartmentalization, and management of burnable gases

Helsinki rescue department

In addition, the Helsinki Rescue Department has fire safety requirements (29/2017/PELT) for construction sites of 12 stories and higher that builders must follow.

These requirements ensure the rescue department can reach the site, access buildings within the site with rescue vehicles, and have a water source available for fire trucks.

In addition, when the building reaches 16 floors the general contractor must have location information available on all people who are working on the site. This is so all workers can be evacuated in the event of an accident. If no one knows how many people are on the site, someone might get trapped without anyone knowing they need rescuing. This information must be real-time data of how many people are on each floor.

 

Kaltiot personnel tracking solution

Kaltiot provides a simple, effective SaaS IOT solution to improve fire safety. The Kaltiot Smart Tracker system provides an exact, real-time view of how many people are working on the site, what floor they are on, and where they are located on that floor.

The Smart Tracker setup for tracking workers utilizes small wireless location beacons and existing equipment.  The tracking solution consists of the following: 

  • IOT tags attached to the helmets of the workers 
  • Scanners on each floor of the building 
  • Gateway on every third floor 
  • Scanner and gateway in construction site break area and office space

Setup

Setup is very simple.

Kaltiot installs the system and replaces the scanner and gateway batteries as needed during the project, which could be once or twice, or not at all.

The only responsibility of the general contractor is to distribute Kaltiot IOT tags to employees and return the scanners and gateways upon completing the site.

The site manager can check the location of people in the building and on the floors online. Multiple users can be added, and reporting can be accessed from any device. Below is an example of basic location reporting looks like.

Tested in Finland

Kaltiot Smart Tracker has already been used at multiple construction sites in the Helsinki metropolitan area. It’s also been introduced to the responsible fire safety authorities in Helsinki. It’s tested and ready to use!

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