Workplace Fire Safety - Knowing is Surviving
Being aware of all fire safety rules and protocols is absolutely vital, no matter what environment or sector that you work in.
If you’re an owner, employer, landlord or manager who is in charge of the premises, you assume the role of the ‘responsible person’ and, as such, you are tasked with ensuring the safety of all in the building and making sure they are aware of all fire safety rules and regulations. Such responsibilities include:
- Carry out regular fire risk assessments on your property, and review these assessments periodically
- Inform staff or guests of any risks that you have found
- Implement and maintain suitable fire safety measures
- Plan for the event of an emergency and ensure staff are knowledgeable of all aspects of the plan
- Provide regular fire safety training and information for staff
Appropriate precautions and steps must be taken to ensure that all users of your building can be evacuated quickly and safely in the event of a fire, including people with disabilities. Escape routes must be accessible for all; a PEEP (Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan) system is perfect for this and will help you fine-tune your evacuation plan to suit everyone in the building.
Fire drills need to be practiced regularly to ensure that all staff and visitors are familiar with the process, and each practice needs to be thoroughly evaluated so as to iron out any flaws or areas that need to be improved on. You should carry out a fire drill at least once per year, and record all results to include in your evacuation plan.
As the responsible person, you are charged with ensuring that all fire safety equipment is in safe working order at all times. As there is a variety of fire safety equipment located throughout your business, they all require testing in different ways, from a thorough test to a simple visual inspection. The tests you need to carry out include:
- All fire alarms are in working order
- All escape routes are clear and well lit
- All fire escapes open easily
- Fire doors close as they should
- Fire exit signs are clearly visible and in the right places
It is important that any findings, good or bad, are recorded in writing so you can act on them if necessary. Certain inspections need to be carried out by a licensed professional, so make sure you contact one in order to adhere to fire safety regulations.
Even if you have practiced your fire safety plan with your staff to the point where you know it from memory, it is important that you review the plan regularly and make any necessary changes to ensure it is always as efficient as possible. This includes the installation of new equipment or the replacement of old equipment, as staff will need to be trained in their use. If the layout of your building or environment has changed, your employees and visitors will need to be notified as this can affect the escape routes they need to use.
Fire Risk Assessment
As designated in The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, the appointed responsible person in any workplace must carry out a thorough Fire Risk Assessment to ascertain the level of risk of harm to those in the premises. The Fire Safety Order states:
“The responsible person must make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to which relevant persons are exposed for the purpose of identifying the general fire precautions he needs to take to comply with the requirements and prohibitions imposed on him by or under this Order.”
There are five steps in an efficient Fire Risk Assessment, and they are:
- Identify any hazards
- Identify people at risk
- Evaluate, remove or reduce the risks
- Record your findings, prepare an emergency plan and provide training
- Review and update the Fire Risk Assessment regularly
The Fire Safety Order defines the precautions that the responsible person must take as:
“(a) Measures to reduce the risk of fire on the premises and the risk of the spread of fire on the premises;
(b) Measures in relation to the means of escape from the premises;
(c) Measures for securing that, at all material times, the means of escape can be safely and effectively used;
(d) Measures in relation to the means for fighting fires on the premises;
(e) Measures in relation to the means for detecting fire on the premises and giving warning in case of fire on the premises; and
(f) Measures in relation to the arrangements for action to be taken in the event of fire on the premises, including
i) Measures relating to the instruction and training of employees and
ii) Measures to mitigate the effects of the fire.”
Once the risk assessment has been carried out and the results have been recorded, any required changes must be made to ensure the safety of those in the building.
Fire Extinguishers and the PASS Technique
When it comes to fire extinguishers, there is a range of types available designed to combat the varying natures of fire that can occur within a workplace. While everyone knows about fire extinguishers, not everyone knows the correct way to use them, which is where the PASS acronym comes in to help. The acronym means:
Pull the pin
Aim at the base of the fire
Squeeze the lever above the handle (some extinguishers may have a button)
Sweep from side to side until the flames are extinguished
The different types of fire extinguishers are suited for the different fire classes, which are defined as follows:
Class A: Designed for solids such as wood, paper and plastic
Class B: Designed for flammable liquids like petrol and oil
Class C: Designed for flammable gases such as methane, butane, and propane
Class D: Designed for metals such as aluminium, magnesium and titanium
Class E: Designed for electrical appliances (not an official class in the UK)
Class F: Designed for cooking oils and fats
This safety article was provided by City Fire, who offers services in fire protection throughout London, Birmingham & Essex regions. There are many things that you need to be aware of to ensure that you and your staff are as knowledgeable as possible when it comes to fire safety. This guide will hopefully help you with some of the key points, but there are also many fire safety training courses available.
Published August 2014