Be Prepared! Fire Safety in the Workplace

If you are the owner/occupier of business premises then by law you are the Responsible Person. That means that if there is a fire at your place of work then it is imperative that you have taken the necessary steps to fulfil your responsibility for the safety of your staff. What follows are a few basic pointers, but you should read and follow the government’s advice on fire regulations in the workplace.

Fire doors are an important feature in preventing the spread of fire and keeping it localised. They can mean the difference between the safe escape of everyone in the building and potential disaster. Far too many times their importance has been overlooked and the fire doors in a building have been propped open, especially in busy areas such as corridors. This may be because the door closer is not suitable. In other words it is difficult to open or too forceful when closing. The hinges and latches should be inspected too; they must open easily to aid escape and seal properly to prevent flames getting through.

Fire escape doors on the outside of the building, which obviously provide part of the building’s security, should have a push bar system rather than relying on a lock and key. All escape routes should be clearly signed. They should be clear of any obstructions and the floor must be in good condition. Where appropriate there should be emergency lighting to help people find the exits if smoke is filling the corridor.

Staff training is vital; they should be made aware of the evacuation procedures in the event of a fire. These procedures should be practised at regular intervals with a drill once a year at the very least. There should be fire safety wardens appointed to make sure the building is evacuated completely and in an orderly and safe fashion. Depending on the size of the building itself and the number of staff, there should be at least two wardens per floor with another spare in case one is off work. People with mobility needs should be accounted for. It is a good idea to employ a “buddy” system where one or two members of staff make it their priority to help that person evacuate. There should also be a designated safe meeting point for staff away from the building.
Fire safety equipment should be readily available and regularly checked. It should be kept in an agreed place, easily accessible and staff should be trained on how to use it. Fire and smoke detection and warning systems should be fitted, maintained properly and regularly tested. Hazardous and flammable material should be removed or properly stored.

All this might seem a bit obvious, but it is important not to get lazy with fire safety, thinking this won’t happen to us. It could. Maintain your equipment, train your staff, have a plan and practice it. The responsibility is yours; be prepared, it could save lives.

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Posted on Tuesday Oct 27