Fire presents a significant risk to any business — it gives no warning and can have devastating results, including damage to property and loss of life. Fire prevention is an important obligation for all businesses.
Not only are people at work at risk from fire but visitors, contractors, fire-fighters, neighbours and others in the vicinity may be affected. Fire hazards are associated with flames and heat, smoke and toxic fumes, reduced oxygen and collapse of buildings.
Fire may be caused in a variety of ways:
- Sparks from electrical equipment
- Equipment overheating
- Hot surfaces, e.g. lighting and heating equipment
- Naked flames
- Hot liquids
To control fire and establish fire prevention techniques and arrangements, you must manage the three factors of the fire triangle which are:
Identify the responsible person for fire safety
Responsibility for complying with fire safety legislation rests with the “responsible person” within the organisation. This will typically be the employer or any other person who may have controls of any part of the premises, e.g the occupier or owner.
Appoint competent persons
Depending on the size of the organisation, a competent person(s) must also be appointed to help implement fire safety control measures (although the responsible person may nominate themselves). Competent persons should have sufficient knowledge, training and experience to be able to implement the control measures properly.
Control the sources of Ignition
Keep material/fuel to a minimum in the premises and remove waste on a regular basis. Avoid keeping flammable substances on the premises if possible or keep stocks low and in a fire resistant container or cabinet away from sources of ignition.Prevent smoking in high-risk areas, i.e. fuel and combustible stores.
Control the oxygen source
Restrict the supply of oxygen that the fire needs to continue burning — keep doors/windows shut in the event of fire.
Control the heat
Excessive heat can start fires. Keep heat sources to a minimum, avoid if possible the use of naked flames and reduce the number of activities where heat can be generated, e.g hot surfaces, friction in machines, smoking, heaters.
Fire detection and raising the alarm
Establish within your premises a system to give persons early warning of an outbreak of fire, e.g. heat or smoke detectors. A verbal means of raising the alarm must be able to be heard through closed doors and in all parts of the premises.
Have the means to warn persons of a fire outbreak when discovered. This could be either a manual or automatic fire alarm. The alarm must be able to be heard by everyone throughout the premises. Everyone must be made familiar with the sound of the alarm so that they take immediate action when the alarm is sounded.
Evacuation procedures and means of escape
Ensure that there is a designated route from the premises and clearly accessible, unobstructed (internally and externally) signed fire exits. Fire exits must not be locked while anyone is in the building. If security is a problem then exit doors can be fitted with emergency opening systems that maintain security at any other time.
Depending on the premises, additional fire safety measures may need to be installed to protect the escape routes — these may include fire doors and fire resisting staircases. Internally, the means of escape needs to be signed. Consideration needs to be given to the provision of an emergency lighting system that operates in the event of power failure to show persons the way out.
A written procedure to inform anyone in the premises should be established. A number of fire procedure notices are provided, which you need to display in prominent positions.
Creating an emergency plan
An emergency plan (based in your fire risk assessment) should be in place, the purpose of which is to ensure that everyone knows the action to be taken in the event of an emergency and ensure safe evacuation of the premises. For low-risk premises with few employees (e.g. offices), the plan can be as simple as a fire action notice displayed throughout the premises. For higher risk premises, the plan should be more comprehensive and detailed.
Fire drills and instruction for all persons should be carried out every six months to ensure that the facilities and procedures are effective and everyone understands what they should do.
Provide means of fighting the fire but remember the first priority — evacuate persons from the premises to a safe assembly point. Fire-fighting techniques to eliminate any one of the factors of the “fire triangle” should be provided and maintained, e.g. sprinklers, fire extinguishers and hose reels.
All fire-fighting equipment must remain unobstructed and be maintained to ensure that it works correctly. Fire extinguishers are required to be inspected by a Fire Extinguishing Trades Association or British Approval for Fire Equipment qualified competent person on an annual basis. Portable extinguishers should be fixed in suitable positions, usually alongside fire doors on exit routes, and clearly signed. The number and type of extinguishers is dependent on the size of the premises and the risk involved with the work.
All tenants need to receive training and instruction in:
- Established fire procedures
- Action to take on discovering a fire
- Use of fire-fighting equipment
- Protection and evacuation of other persons in the premises.
- Identify your responsible person for fire safety (someone who has overall control of the building)
- Appoint an appropriate number of competent persons.
- Ensure that an emergency plan is in place and tenants are instructed in its implementation.
- Ensure that fire-fighting equipment is supplied, maintained and accessible.
- Keep fire escapes and exits obstruction free and properly signed.
- Ensure tenants and employees are instructed in the fire procedures.
- Ensure fire procedures are developed.
- Ensure the Fire Procedure Notices are displayed.
If you need any general advice on fire safety, call Sanjay on 01748 811992