Fire safety management in many firms across the UK is merely paid lip service.
Businesses are more focused on increasing profits, but we all know the cost of a fire can be enormous. From loss of life to damage of property worth millions of pounds, fire is a very destructive force.
Regardless of whether it was deliberately or accidentally started, it represents a major risk to businesses.
While there was a 10% reduction in the number of fires attended by the authorities in 2013, compared to 2012, there were still over 150, 000 call-outs and 259 fatalities from fire-related incidents. Through the use of standard equipment such as fire extinguishers, smoke alarms, a regular fire assessment by a qualified inspector, many of these incidences can be prevented.
Who Does What?
A risk assessment helps a business identify hazards associated with fire from work-related activities and other hazards in the work place. The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order (RRO), places the responsibility for ensuring health and safety of workers on the employer of labour.
According to this law, they are the ‘responsible person’. This may be the owner of the business, the occupier, the managing agents, etc. It further states that “Duties are also imposed on any other person for whom the workplace is to any extent, under his control”
Assessing your Business
Businesses also have the obligation to appoint individuals to carry out thorough risk assessments and advice on improvements to fire safety. The Fire Safety Order states that the duty to undertake and implement a risk assessment lies with the responsible person. The following are the common steps in carrying out a risk assessment procedure:
- Identifying potential fire hazards. Anything that will burn is potentially fuel for a fire. Assess the quantity of the material and it’s proximity to other materials. It is also important to locate sources of oxygen that can fuel the fire. Noting all the potential interactions is the first step to a fire risk assessment.
- Know your numbers. How many people are in the premises at any given time? Customers, employees, visitors etc., should all be tracked to reduce the incidence of fatalities.
- Evaluate the likelihood of a fire starting. How can a fire start? Through an act of carelessness? Accidents? Deliberate action? An assessor examines all possible angles of ignition and also avenues of possible spread. The next step is removal of these risks, or reduction if they cannot be avoided. This includes removing sources of initial ignition, fuel and oxygen supply.
- Record, inform and instruct. The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, requires that the findings of the risk assessment be recorded. Any actions taken, as a consequence , must also be recorded. The results will determine if the organisation needs to have more personnel trained as fire marshals to help with emergency evacuations. There is an added advantage of training staff; they become more proactive and can spot fire hazards before they escalate.
- Review. While the assessment is a dynamic process and should be done as surrounding risk factors increase or decline, it is recommended that it’s carried out at least once a year. This recap becomes more vital if there has been any structural changes to the building in that period. Companies can keep a Fire Safety Register to record all instances and near misses of fire incidents.
Enforcing the law and mandatory risk assessments, is helping to reduce the menace of fire outbreaks. Businesses should aim to comply with the entire requirements of the RRO, and continue the use of proactive and preventive measures within their firms.
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