When it comes to workplace hazards, fire is one of the most universal. Whether you work in an office, factory, warehouse or even outdoors, a proper fire risk assessment is absolutely essential. Most fires are preventable, and this blog will focus on the steps you can take to protect yourself and your employees from this hazard. Read on to learn about the basics of fire safety and risk assessments, along with a limited-time training offer!
What does a fire need to start?
All a fire needs to start is heat, fuel and oxygen (which includes the air around us!).
Heat sources can include heaters, lighting, naked flames, electrical equipment, smokers’ materials (cigarettes, matches etc) – essentially, anything that can get very hot or cause sparks.
Fuel sources can include wood, paper, plastic, rubber or foam, loose packaging materials, waste rubbish and furniture – essentially, anything that can burn.
Who is responsible for fire safety in the workplace?
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, states that the employer or owner is the ‘responsible’ person, and therefore has overall responsibility for fire safety in their premises. However, they may appoint ‘competent’ persons such as Fire Wardens to help ensure adequate fire safety procedures are used and adhered to.
How do you carry out a fire risk assessment?
WA Management carries out many Fire Risk Assessments every year for many of our customers. But do you know what is required when you have to do one yourself? As per the GOV.UK guidance, the steps to conducting a fire risk assessment are as follows:
- Identify the fire hazards – This includes identifying the aforementioned sources of heat and fuel, as well as keeping these apart from each other. You should also make notes of anything that can start a fire and burn.
- Identify people at risk – If a fire occurs, everyone in the premises is at risk. However some are more vulnerable, for example due to where/when they work (e.g. night staff), their familiarity with the premises, or because of personal characteristics such as age or disability.
- Evaluate, remove, or reduce the risks – Think about the risks identified in the first two steps and how these risks can be removed. For example, is there a source of heat that could fall or be knocked onto something flammable? Is there an alternative way to store these items?
- Record your findings, prepare an emergency plan, and provide training – Make sure that everyone in the building, not just your own staff, has been included in your plan. Has everyone been trained, and do you have some staff specifically trained in putting fire safety measures in place?
- Review and update the fire risk assessment regularly – The risks may change over time, so regularly review your risk assessment and ensure others in the premises are kept appraised. Think about any significant changes in your business, such as your stock levels or if you’ve begun to store chemicals/other dangerous substances.
In terms of fire prevention, you’ll need to consider:
- The removal or safe storage of dangerous substances: are your chemicals correctly stored, recycling/flammable materials in a low risk location?
- Firefighting equipment: do you have all the right sorts of fire extinguishers that might be needed?
In the case of a fire, you’ll need to consider:
- Emergency routes and exits: are emergency exits clearly signposted, and do you have more than one potential escape route?
- Fire detection and warning systems: are you testing your fire alarm systems weekly?
- An emergency fire evacuation plan: has this been shared with everyone in the building?
Finally, in terms of the people within the premises, you’ll need to consider:
- Staff fire safety training: does everyone know what to do in the event of a fire and how to fulfil their roles?
- Providing information to employees and others on the premises: have guests and temporary employees been made aware of fire safety procedures?
- The needs of vulnerable people e.g., the elderly, young children, or those with disabilities: are fire exits and escape routes accessible?
For more detailed information, take a look at the GOV.UK’s fire safety risk assessment chart.
What training do you and your colleagues need?
Fire Safety E-learning – Suitable for any non-fire-specialist employee, this course covers what to do if they discover a fire and how to help prevent them. This course is a great way to give your employees a better understanding of preventable risks and how to react in an emergency. As a bonus, it will also help bolster the credibility or your risk assessments!
Fire Warden E-Learning – This course is designed to provide Fire Wardens with details and knowledge of their responsibilities, how fires start and what actions to take in the event of a fire.
Risk Assessment E-Learning –This course is suitable for anyone involved in risk assessment development and/or the enforcing of workplace procedures, and will inform users of the process, the importance, and the responsibilities involved in Risk Assessment. Don’t forget, we can also carry out Risk Assessments on behalf of our customers – let us take the stress and confusion of the process off your plate!
For more guidance regarding fire safety, head over to the HSE website. We are also currently running an offer on our Fire Safety, Fire Warden and Slips, Trips & Falls courses for this month only! Get 10% off these online training courses with the code ‘fire10’ at checkout.
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