Fire safety at work
October is fast approaching, and with it National Fire Safety month. What better time to brush up on your fire safety knowledge and apply a few simple changes to your workplace to create a more pleasant and safer business environment for everyone?
As an employer or business owner you have a legal duty to ensure that your premises and the people who work for you are safe from fire and its effects.
This article contains some simple and easy to implement advice to those of you responsible for fire safety in a small to medium-sized business.
1) Carry out a fire-risk assessment
• As the business owner you are solely responsible to make sure that anyone on your premises or nearby can escape safely if there is a fire.
• Carrying out a fire-risk assessment means that you are able to identify the key fire hazards, and allows you to establish who (if anybody) is especially at risk. You may then identify the measures which can be taken in order to reduce the likelihood of a fire occurring, and provide your employees with the necessary precautions.
• An emergency plan should be constructed within this process
• Other responsible people should be informed and instructed to ensure that more than one of you is sufficiently trained in fire safety procedures.
• Fire-risk assessments should be reviewed regularly, and modified where necessary.
2) Good housekeeping practices
• Clutter not only works as fuel for fires but also blocks access to walkthroughs, fire prevention equipment and emergency exits; utilise your waste disposal system properly and there should be no reason for rubbish to pile up.
• Take special care to store any high risk products or substances accordingly so as to prevent accidents and injuries.
• When using and storing chemical materials, always do so in an area with adequate ventilation.
3) Work by safe practices
• Make sure you prepare an emergency plan as part of your fire-risk assessment, and keep all of your employees up to date on the most recent practices.
• Prepare a contingency plan.
• Make sure that any machines in your workplace are maintained correctly to prevent overheating and friction sparks. If any electrical repairs are required, do not attempt to carry them out yourself unless you’re qualified. Faulty wiring and malfunctioning electrical equipment are key contributors to workplace fires.
• Designate specific smoking areas and ensure that all smokers are using it. Enforce proper extinguishing of smoking materials.
4) Fire detection & warning systems
• Firstly, ensure that emergency phone numbers as well as your full company address is posted near a phone station for ease of access in case of fire.
• Test smoke detectors and fire alarms regularly to guarantee that they will alert you in an emergency. It is common practice to have a weekly fire drill, and you are recommended to change the battery in smoke alarms every year and replace the whole unit every ten years.
• As a rule of thumb you should have one fire extinguisher for every 200 square metres of floor space, and at least one on each floor of your workplace. Check fire extinguishers regularly by looking at the gauges to see if they are fully charged and ready for use, and call for maintenance if the attached tag indicates that the last inspection occurred more than a month ago.
5) Installation of suitable fire exits & fire doors
• Fire exits and escape routes must be kept clear of any obstructions at all time, especially combustible items.
• Always make sure that regular fire doors are kept closed and not propped or wedged open. By doing this you are committing an offence, but most importantly you are putting your employees at far greater risk if a fire was to occur.
• If like many of us you work in a busy, fast-paced environment where fire doors connect main points of passage, consider a free-door system which allows you to keep the fire door propped open whilst adhering to fire safety regulations. These systems prove very effective in preventing corridor congestion as well as making life easier for your employees.
This article was written by Kirsty Boden of Fireco LTD.
Fireco Fireco specialise in manufacturing intelligent fire-prevention products and systems to help service providers comply with legal obligations and responsibilities.