Health & Safety

What is it?

Fire is a chemical reaction, which gives off heat and light. It can be a good friend and we would be lost without it. We use it to cook, heat our homes and premises and in a range of manufacturing processes. It is fire inside their engines, which drives vehicles. When it is out of control, fire is a different story. It is capable of killing, maiming and causing destruction or damage to property.

Why is it important?

Fire presents significant risk to businesses. It can kill or seriously injure employees or visitors and can damage or destroy buildings, equipment and stock. Organisations operating from single premises are particularly vulnerable as loss of premises may completely disrupt their operations. Many businesses cease to exist following a severe fire.

Who is most at risk?

Any business that stocks combustible material including flammable liquids and gasses, uses heat processes, has people working alone in parts of the building, has poorly maintained equipment and electrical circuits, has public access (arson) and has poor housekeeping standards. But any organisation may be affected at any time.

The main hazards associated with working at height are people falling, and objects falling onto people. These may occur as a result of inadequate edge protection, or poor securing of people or objects in storage.

What does the law say?

Between them, the Fire Regulations and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1992 (as amended):

  • require employers to carry out a fire risk assessment of their workplace
  • identify the significant findings of the risk assessment and the details of anyone who might be especially at risk in case of fire (these must be recorded if more than five employees)
  • provide and maintain fire precautions necessary to safeguard anyone using the workplace (including visitors) and
  • provide information, instruction and training to your employees about the fire precautions in the workplace
  • Where it is necessary to safeguard the safety of employees, employers must nominate people to undertake any special roles which are required under the emergency plan.
  • Employers must consult their employees (or their elected representatives or appointed trade union safety representatives) about the nomination of people to carry out particular roles in connection with fire safety and about proposals for improving the fire precautions.
  • Employers must inform other employers who also have workplaces in the building of any significant risks they found which might affect the safety of their employees – and co-operate with them about the measures proposed to reduce/control those risks.
  • Controllers of premises (even if they do not employ anyone themselves) which contain more than one workplace, are also responsible for ensuring that the requirements of the Fire Regulations are complied with in those parts over which they have control.
  • Employers must establish a suitable means of contacting the emergency services, and ensure that they can be called easily.
  • Employees must co-operate with employers to ensure the workplace is safe from fire and its effects and not to do anything which will place themselves or other people at risk. In some workplaces there may be a need to apply for a fire certificate, a licence, or other form of approval before using the workplace.

What can be done?

Fire Warning and Detection

Ensure existing means of detection discover a fire quickly enough to raise an alarm in time for all the occupants to escape to a safe place.

  • The means for giving warning should be clearly heard and understood throughout the whole premises when initiated from any single point.
  • If the fire detection and warning system is electrically powered, ensure it has a back up power supply.
  • Ensure employees know bout about the fire warning system, and they know how to operate and respond to it.
  • Ensure there are instructions/notices for employees on how to operate the fire warning system.
Means of Escape in Case of Fire
  • Would there a reasonable length of time for all the occupants to escape to a place of safety once a fire has been detected?
  • Are there enough exits and are they in the right place? Are the type and size of exits suitable and sufficient for the number of people likely to need to use them?
  • In the event of fire, could all available exits be affected or will at least one route from any part of the premises remain available?
  • Are all escape routes easily identifiable, free from any obstructions and adequately illuminated?
  • Are all staff trained in using the means of escape?
  • Are there instructions about the means of escape for employees?
  • Have means of escape arrangements been included in the emergency plan?
Means for Fighting Fire
  • Ensure extinguishers suitable for the purpose and of sufficient capacity.
  • Ensure sufficient extinguishers sited throughout the workplace.
  • Ensure the right types of extinguishers located close to the fire hazards and that users can gain access to them without exposing themselves to risk.
  • Ensure the locations of the extinguishers obvious or their position need indicating?
  • Have the people likely to use the fire extinguishers been given adequate instruction and training?
  • Have you included the use of fire-fighting equipment in your emergency plan?
Maintenance and Testing
  • Are all fire doors and escape routes regularly checked along with associated lighting and signs?
  • Is fire-fighting equipment regularly checked?
  • Is fire detection and alarm equipment regularly checked?
  • Is any other equipment provided to help means of escape arrangements in the building regularly checked?
  • Are there instructions for relevant employees about testing of equipment?
  • Are those who test and maintain the equipment properly trained to do so?

Good Practice

  • Keep workplaces tidy
  • Regularly remove combustible waste including dusts
  • So far as possible, keep ignition sources way from combustible material, flammable liquids/gasses, etc
  • Keep flammable liquids to a minimum and close containers when not in use
  • Consider how you would recover from disaster
Fire Procedures and Training
  • Compile an emergency plan.
  • Ensure employees are familiar with the plan, trained in its use and involved in testing it.
  • Ensure emergency plan made available to all who need to be aware of it.
  • Ensure the procedures to be followed are clearly indicated throughout the workplace.
  • Consider all the people likely to be present in your workplace and others with whom you share the building.
At Shutdown
  • Ensure all windows and doors closed, including doors held open by automatic release unit.
  • Switch off electrical equipment not in use, and where appropriate, unplug.
  • Check that smokers materials are not left smouldering.
  • Check that all naked flames are extinguished or left in a safe condition.
  • Ensure all flammable rubbish and waste is removed to a safe place.
  • Check that all highly flammable materials are safely stored.
  • Ensure that the workplace is secured against unauthorised entry.