I have seen two short films on the internet, both included in this week’s newsletter, about fire and how people react to hearing the fire alarm or even seeing a fire. It is unbelievable!
So this week, I thought that I should look at Fire Safety and what you should be doing as an employer and as an employee. I have also, in light of the forthcoming seasonal event, added some advice to consider keeping you safe at home.
This week’s 2 recent HSE cases look at situations that should never have been allowed to happen
- James Bibby, 25, and Thomas Elmer, 27, were both killed when carrying out maintenance work on a conveyor belt at the Sonae factory in Kirkby.
- The incident shattered all of the worker’s right-hand side ribs and broke two ribs on his left side. He was in hospital for two months.
Most fires are preventable. Those responsible for workplaces and other buildings to which the public have access can avoid them, by taking responsibility for and adopting the right behaviours and procedures.
Quite often it is the behaviour of people that you must consider more carefully as this can make all the difference between living or not.
But first let us look at the components of fire and your duties.
Fires need three things to start – a source of ignition (heat), a source of fuel (something that burns) and oxygen:
- sources of ignition include heaters, lighting, naked flames, electrical equipment, smokers’ materials (cigarettes, matches etc), and anything else that can get very hot or cause sparks
- sources of fuel include wood, paper, plastic, rubber or foam, loose packaging materials, waste rubbish and furniture
- sources of oxygen include the air around us
If you remove any one of these and you cannot have a fire.
What do I, as an employer, have to do?
Employers (and/or building owners or occupiers) must carry out a fire safety risk assessment and keep it up to date. This shares the same approach as health and safety risk assessments and can be carried out either as part of an overall risk assessment or as a separate exercise.
Based on the findings of the assessment, employers need to ensure that adequate and appropriate fire safety measures are in place to minimise the risk of injury or loss of life in the event of a fire.
To help prevent fire in the workplace, your risk assessment should identify what could cause a fire to start, i.e. sources of ignition (heat or sparks) and substances that burn, and the people who may be at risk.
Once you have identified the risks, you can take appropriate action to control them. Consider whether you can avoid them altogether or, if this is not possible, how you can reduce the risks and manage them. Also consider how you will protect people if there is a fire.
- Carry out a fire safety risk assessment
- Keep sources of ignition and flammable substances apart
- Avoid accidental fires, e.g. make sure heaters cannot be knocked over
- Ensure good housekeeping at all times, e.g. avoid build-up of rubbish that could burn
- Consider how to detect fires and how to warn people quickly if they start, e.g. installing smoke alarms and fire alarms or bells
- Have the correct fire-fighting equipment for putting a fire out quickly
- Keep fire exits and escape routes clearly marked and unobstructed at all times
- Appoint suitably trained Fire Wardens
- Ensure your workers receive appropriate training on procedures they need to follow, including fire drills
- Review and update your risk assessment regularly
What do I, as an employee, have to do?
- Not starting fires either deliberately or accidently
- Clear up rubbish that easily burns and place it in the correct bin or assigned area.
- Ensure you don’t block up fire exits or leave obstructions in the fire escape routes.
- Do not misuse or remove fire extinguishers.
- Do not ignore Fire Alarms but follow the training you have been given even if it turns out to be a false alarm.
You may wonder why I have highlighted the points about fire drills and fire alarms above because it is obvious that you would leave on hearing the fire alarm isn’t it.
Well please watch this short film.