FSEG LOGO FIRE SAFETY ENGINEERING GROUP The Queen's Anniversary Prize 2002 The British Computer Society IT Awards 2001 The European IST Prize Winner 2003 The Guardian University Awards Winner 2014
The Faculty of Architecture, Computing & Humanities


Improving Evacuation Safety of Construction Sites
May 2016 - April 2018

Funded by Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH)

In London alone there are an estimated 250 high-rise building projects planned over the next few years which will contribute a significant proportion of the projected £21 billion per year construction spend. A typical project, such as the £400 million ‘100 Bishopsgate’ building will have a peak workforce of some 1500 workers onsite with a total number of workers onsite through the life of the project estimated to be 12,000. Based on these figures it is estimated that the total number of workers expected to be exposed to construction sites in London during the lifetime of construction for these 250 projects can easily exceed 1 million people.

A significant risk to the health and safety (HS) of workers on construction sites is emergency evacuation associated with fire or some other on-site emergency. Evacuation during the construction phase of a building is one of the most challenging evacuation scenarios particularly given the ever changing nature of the construction site. Nevertheless, over the past 50 years around the world, very little research has focused on this topic. Clearly, during construction the evacuation plans and procedures for the completed building are not applicable. The layout of the building and even its interconnectivity may be changing on a daily basis requiring that evacuation plans are adapted and conveyed to the construction workers on a regular basis.

While construction sites may undertake regular evacuation drills as part of HS practice, these are seldom unannounced evacuation drills. Thus workers are usually aware that a drill will take place on a given day and in some cases at a given time. Thus workers can prepare for the drill and may pre-empt the evacuation. This inadvertently reduces the realism of the drill and it fails to test construction site workers’ knowledge of the evacuation process, the effectiveness of the procedures in place and the effectiveness of the training processes employed.

Construction site
Construction of a high rise builiding.

This project will be the first systematic fundamental study into the evacuation behaviour and performance of workers on construction sites and will provide important insight into, and quantification of, the likely behavioural responses of construction workers during evacuation situations. The project will also provide a unique data-set for the validation of evacuation models that can be used in the development and optimisation of evacuation procedures for construction sites. With this knowledge it will be possible to frame more realistic and achievable evacuation procedures improving the safety of construction workers and as a result emergency responders.

Construction site Construction site
Construction site Construction site
Project Objectives The project’s objectives are to establish a unique evidence base characterising, for the first time, the actual performance and behaviour of construction workers during emergency evacuation. This information combined with computer simulation can be used to inform the development of more reliable evacuation procedures improving the safety of construction workers.

Objective 1
Develop an understanding of how perception of risk may influence evacuation behaviour on construction sites.

Objective 2
Develop an understanding of the level of construction worker knowledge of evacuation procedures on various construction sites and how this is influenced by type of construction, phase of construction and population demographics.

Objective 3
Collect human performance data characterising the evacuation behaviour of construction workers, including response times, movement rates, wayfinding abilities and preparedness to use hoists or lifts for evacuation.

Objective 4
Provide evacuation data that could be used to validate evacuation models specific to construction sites.

Objective 5
Through the use of evacuation modelling utilising data collected in this project, demonstrate how evacuation procedures for construction sites can be optimised

Objective 6
Through the better understanding of construction worker evacuation behaviour and the optimisation of evacuation procedures, provide improved certainty of the outcome of evacuation situations, enabling a more efficient and safer response from emergency services.

Construction site Construction site
Construction site Construction site
Several views of a construction site in Melbourne showing the construction of a high rise building. The floors shown have three types of surface, steel beam lattice, metal decking and metal decking with rebar. Several workers can be seen on the surfaces. Evacuating from these surfaces poses several difficulties that need addressing.
Project Methodology

The project has five distinct tasks, Planning and Preparation, Data Collection, Data Analysis, Model Calibration, and Optimising Evacuation Procedures:

1. Planning and Preparation
A key component of the project will be the planning of four unannounced evacuation trials of construction sites. The unannounced nature of the trials will ensure that the behaviour of the workers is as realistic as possible. FSEG have considerable experience in undertaking these type of evacuation experiments and have safely undertaken unannounced evacuations of many complex buildings. In 2013 FSEG successfully completed a pilot trial in collaboration with Brookfield Multiplex at their Aldgate Tower high-rise construction site to demonstrate the feasibility of such evacuation trials.

The sites will be selected in consultation with the project advisory board, and will be examples of two types of construction sites at two differing phases of development.

The worker’s performance and behaviour during the evacuations will be collected using strategically located video cameras. Questionnaires will be distributed at the end of the evacuation to supplement the video data. The questionnaires will assess risk perception, knowledge of the evacuation procedures and other subjective experiences of the participants.

2. Data Collection
Each of the four construction sites will be instrumented with video cameras that will record the performance and behaviour of the participants. The cameras will be set up at a time when there are very few people on site e.g. very early in the morning. A team of FSEG researchers, with assistance from the site management staff will conduct the surveys of the construction workers after the evacuation. They will remain on-site for the day assisting the workers to complete the surveys during their scheduled work breaks. Furthermore, the surveys will also be provided on-line for completion at a later stage.

Construction site
Different types of flooring exists during the various stages of development. Each poses its own difficulties in people's movement and evacuation.

3. Data Analysis
The video footage from the trials will be analysed frame by frame to extract human performance and validation data such as:

  • Response time data
  • Travel speeds
  • Wayfinding
  • Specific human behaviours such as potential lack of response to an alarm and nature of response to colleagues, supervisors or management
  • Validation
Data from the questionnaires will be statistically analysed to determine how perception of risk influences evacuation behaviour on construction sites. The human performance data will be invaluable in defining how construction workers actually behave during on-site evacuation, as opposed to how site managers think they behave, or would like them to behave. As such the proposed dataset will be unique and represents the only data of its type available anywhere in the world. This information will be extremely useful in its own right and will enable site managers to make more informed decisions when it comes to planning onsite evacuation procedures.

All the collected data will be made publicly available via the FSEG web site (see for example http://goo.gl/mUALxe) and through the publication of academic and professional papers.

4. Model Calibration and Validation
The human performance data will be used to calibrate the buildingEXODUS evacuation modelling software. For this software to be able to make reliable predictions of human behaviour during evacuation it requires reliable human performance data describing parameters such as; response times, travel speeds, wayfinding choices, etc. Other software calibration may be required to ensure that features that currently function for completed buildings, such as lifts can accommodate on site variations such as the use of hoists for evacuation. The validation dataset will then be used to assess the performance of the calibrated buildingEXODUS evacuation model in performing evacuation simulations of construction sites by comparing its predictions to the observed evacuations.

5. Optimising Evacuation Procedures
The validated model will then be used to assess the evacuation procedures of a Brookfield Multiplex construction site and the model used to suggest procedural improvements to the evacuation process. The project team will work closely with the construction site team to ensure that the proposed optimised procedures are practical and viable. The successful completion of this project will demonstrate the viability of applying evacuation modelling tools to construction sites, thereby improving the planning and reliability of evacuation procedures and ultimately, the safety of construction workers.

Project Partners
Brookfield Multiplex Logo

University of Greenwich Logo
Project Funding
iosh Logo

Advisory Board
  • Multiplex
  • London Fire Brigade
  • Build UK
  • Loughborough University (representing IOSH)
  • Fire Safety Engineering Group (University of Greenwich)
Further Information Prof. Ed Galea
Fire Safety Engineering Group
University of Greenwich
Greenwich Maritime Campus
Old Royal Naval College
Queen Mary Building
Greenwich SE10 9LS
Tel: +44 (020) 8331 8730
e-mail: E.R.Galea@gre.ac.uk



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