RC33 Recommendations for the risk management of portable accommodation units

The use of portable accommodation units is widespread, and has become recognised as offering a cost effective means of providing additional space quickly - so as to allow organisations to continue normal working operations in an acceptable, socially distanced environment.

Many of the portable units currently being introduced are likely to be medium or long term solutions to the workspace rather than temporary accommodation, and thus must be installed, equipped with fire protection provisions and managed in an equivalent manner to the permanent structures on site. This is the case whether the accommodation is intended for use as an office or for other purposes.

In recent years, many designs of accommodation have become available that allow units to be interlinked to provide flexible layouts. These modern buildings are manufactured to a high standard using durable materials, and are intended for long term use.

In many cases, portable accommodation units are integrated with the main buildings on a site, and may introduce additional fire hazards that need to be addressed in the fire risk assessment for the premises. Experience has shown that such units can present a significant fire exposure to insurers if adequate measures are not taken in their design, specification, positioning and management. Portable accommodation has to be selected with care in relation to the intended function to which it is to be used, and linked to necessary services with the same attention to detail as permanent facilities.

RC33 summarises good practice to be considered when introducing additional portable accommodation onto a site. The document addresses the form of construction of the units, their arrangement on site and their management. It is emphasised that even where portable accommodation units are brought onto a site to form a short term solution to a problem, they should be managed and maintained following the policies already adopted for all other structures on site.

This new edition of RC33 has been published in recognition of the more widespread use of portable accommodation units across many business types, and to ensure the safety of staff, contractors, visitors and others who may have recourse to visit the premises – while also incorporating COVID-19 requirements for effective social distancing. It has also been updated from the original published in 2003 to address legislative changes - in particular the requirement for a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment - and to address other changes and developments related to BS and BSEN standards, certifications schemes and guidance.