Businesses failing to follow fire safety regulations risk the safety of their premises and employees and a fine and up to 2 years in prison.
Recent UK fire statistics
Every quarter the Home Office publishes statistics relating to fires, fire-related fatalities, fire-related casualties, false alarms and non-fire incidents attended.
Thankfully, the most recent numbers showed the lowest number of deaths since records began in 1982. The authors highlighted that this could be driven at least in part by the effect of Covid restrictions.
- Fire and Rescue Services (FRSs) attended over 518,000 incidents in England alone, of which 151,000 were fires.
- There were 7,644 non-fatal casualties, with 43% needing hospital treatment
- There were 240 fire-related fatalities in England in 2020/2021
Fire safety in the workplace
In the UK, local fire and rescue authorities visit premises to conduct a fire risk assessment and check that fire prevention measures are appropriate.
If they are not, the consequences can range from an informal notice to prohibition, meaning that your business would have to close!
Each workplace must have one or more designated 'responsible person', who must undertake regular fire-risk assessments. They can pass this task to another competent person but remain responsible, in law, for meeting the order.
Responsibilities of the 'Responsible Person'
- Carrying out regular fire risk assessments
- Informing staff or their representatives about any risks identified
- Putting in place and maintaining appropriate fire safety measures
- Planning for emergencies
- Providing staff information, fire safety instruction and training
How to audit your fire safety processes
1. Appoint at least one responsible person
Like any other key role, it is best to ensure that several people at least are familiar with the responsibilities of your 'responsible person'. In that way, if your 'responsible person' is taken ill, on holiday or leaves the company, you are not left with a skill and information gap.
2. Create a fire-risk assessment process
The 'Responsible Person' must regularly conduct fire risk assessments.
As some tasks could be delegated, it is important to document each task and centrally record the results and any resulting actions.
Fire risk assessment tasks
- Identify fire hazards
- Identify people at risk
- Evaluate, remove or reduce, and protect from risk
- Record, plan, inform, instruct and train
- Regularly review your fire risk assessment
3. Appoint Fire Marshalls
Fire Marshalls have an important role in evacuating the building and containing and tackling small blazes. But their main role is in preventing fires.
Alongside your ‘Responsible Person’, your Fire Marshals can help deliver the recommendations in your Fire Risk Assessment.
Key responsibilities of fire marshalls
- Checking your emergency exits.
- Checking your fire extinguishers.
- Checking your fire doors weekly.
- Checking your ‘Break Glass Call Points‘.
- Checking your emergency lighting every month.
- Testing your fire alarm weekly.
- Checking your fire safety signs.
- Checking your general housekeeping.
- Checking your smoking areas.
- Controlling your hazardous materials.
- Carrying out fire safety inductions for new staff.
- Making sure electrical devices are PAT tested.
- Organising fire drills at least annually.
- Managing all paperwork and the logbook.
- Owning your fire risk assessment.
- Ensure all employees receive fire safety training
3. Ensure all employees receive fire safety training
As mentioned above, this is one of the key tasks for your Fire Marshalls. Fire safety awareness is not just a legal obligation; it prevents injuries and saves lives.
Ensure that all your staff complete training on how to work safely.
And remember that visitors and anyone with special needs may need extra help during an evacuation.
4. Prominently display fire safety signage
If an employee spots a fire, it is vital that they can quickly and easily sound the fire alarm to warn others. Equally, to ensure safe evacuations and staff need to be aware of their nearest exit. And finally, by signposting designated areas, you can mitigate the risks of fire.
There are four main applications of fire safety signs in the UK:
- Fire Action Notice - Explaining what to do in case of fire
- Signs marking fire exit routes, doors and assembly points
- Signs showing the location of fire-fighting equipment such as extinguishers
- Warning and prohibition signs such as ‘Danger’ or ‘No Smoking’
5. Communicate fire drill protocols
Ensure your staff understand that fire drills are not an excuse to skip work or take a break. They are a source of important information that may save their lives.
Everyone needs to know whom their fire marshall is and their designated assembly point. Employees must stay at their assembly point until the roll call is completed. Otherwise, fire marshals and the fire brigade may think they are still inside the building.
6. Mitigate your fire risks
Follow good housekeeping practices (such as discarding waste promptly, keeping corridors clear, etc.) to reduce fire risk.
Try and replace highly flammable materials with less combustible alternatives. Introduce a safe-smoking policy with designated areas.
7. Create clear channels for reporting fire safety issues
Create a simple way for employees to report fire safety issues such as missing fire extinguishers, blocked exits or faulty alarms. It could be as simple as an email address listed on any signage.
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