What your workplace needs to know about fire safety
Fire safety should be a key pillar in any business’s everyday work practice. The protection and safety of employees, contractors and visitors to a workplace is of paramount importance and our approach to fire safety should reflect that. Although fire’s rarely occur in a workplace, it’s imperative that everyone across the site knows what they should do if a fire breaks out because, unfortunately, when things go wrong in a situation such as this, they can go really wrong.
As someone with years of experience in the industry, here are my top suggestions for getting your approach to fire safety in order.
Start at the very beginning
By this, I mean your induction process. Building fire safety into an induction is a great example of ‘starting as you mean to go on’. It sets the scene for your new employees that fire safety is taken seriously and that, as a member of staff, they will be expected to play their part by knowing:
- Who their fire warden is
- Where the fire exits are
- What behaviour is expected of them in the event of an evacuation
If you have an induction video for site visitors, fire safety should also be included in this. At Zicam, we do something similar for our engineers, when they come into the office they must have a fire briefing just simply to highlight where the escape routes are and where the evacuation meeting point is.
Every workplace needs a responsible fire warden as part of its fire safety strategy. Fire wardens must attend a training course so they understand their duties and can meet what’s required under the Fire Safety Order 2005 and the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. They will also learn about different types of fire extinguishers and how to operate them.
The number of fire wardens you need will depend on the size of your business, for example, if you have 30 staff, two wardens would be sufficient (one warden would mean there’s no holiday cover); if you have 1000 staff, one warden per department would be more appropriate. Their responsibilities range from:
- Checking extinguishers, fire doors, emergency lighting and signage
- Taking part in weekly fire alarms to ensure they’re all working
- Conducting fire evacuation drills, which should happen once a year as a minimum
- Helping vulnerable staff and visitors safely out of buildings in the event of a fire
- Using fire extinguishers, if appropriate
- Act as point of contact for emergency services
- Assist with roll call
These days roll call has been made easier with access control systems. Linked to an individual employee’s swipe card, in the event of a fire a warden can print the roll call off to check easily and quickly who should be on the premises in comparison to who is present at the muster point. If someone is missing the fire service can be alerted as soon as they attend. It’s important that each staff member understands how crucial it is that they swipe in and out and it’s worth this message being repeated in team meetings, Toolbox Talks, and communicated via signage at the access control points.
Know your extinguishers
Although it’s the assigned role of a fire warden to tackle fires in the workplace when appropriate, in fact, anyone can use one if it’s for safe escape – if there’s a fire blocking their exit. In this situation, not everyone will have received training on how to operate a fire extinguisher so it’s important that there is clear instruction about what type of extinguisher should be used on different types of fires.
The handling and operation will be clearly displayed on the extinguisher as a step-by-step guide to use, but what’s often missing is education about the appropriate fire extinguisher to use. For our Zicam team I’ve created the following simple quick-reference guide.
Above all, your fire strategy should be about keeping it simple to keep people safe. If you are unsure if your life safety system complies with current requirements, or you want to find out more about upgrading your system, please give our team a call today.
Anthony Pritchard, Fire Design Project Manager, Zicam Integrated Security Limited.
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