A Guide to Fire Safety in the Workplace

a-guide-to-fire-safety-in-the-workplaceThe former home of the BBC, the Old Marconi House, caught fire on Monday 13th June, causing significant damage, in particular, to the central section of the roof near the Montreal Place Elevation. Reputedly more than 75 fire fighters and two engines spent over two hours tackling the blaze. Inquiries are being made as to the cause and workers’ tools will likely be a major focus of the investigation. The 10-storey building was under development by Galliard Homes, carrying out a conversion to luxury flats and a hotel.

Fortunately we believe no one was hurt in the incident, but this instance of fire, which spanned over 100sq m of roof, in such a prominent development puts into perspective the need for precautions even in the most professional of environments. Under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order of 2005 any person who has some level of control in premises must take reasonable steps to reduce the risk from fire and make sure occupants can safely escape in such an instance.

To help, we have provided a five step guide to creating a comprehensive fire-risk assessment.

  1. Identify Fire Hazards – Sources of Ignition (ie. naked flames, heaters etc.), sources of fuel (ie. built up waste, display materials etc.) and sources of oxygen must be located and identified.
  2. Identify people at risk – Those working near to fire dangers, those working alone or in isolated areas, children or parents with babies and the elderly or infirm must be identified as most at risk.
  3. Evaluate, move, reduce and protect from risk – Evaluate the level of risk. Remove or reduce any fire hazards and reduce any risks you have identified, wherever practicable. When this is done, you must assess any risk that is left and decide whether any further action can be taken in order to provide a reasonable level of fire safety. Things you might want to include:
    • A fire-detection and warning system (able to warn all people in all circumstances)
    • A way of fighting a small fire (multi-purpose fire extinguishers. One for every 200m2 of floor space. At least one per floor.)
    • Safe routes for people to leave the premises (ideally, more than one escape route from all parts of the premises (NB. jumping out of a window is not a recognised escape route…))
    • Suitable fire exit doors (for use without a key or specialist knowledge)
  4. Record, Plan, Instruct, Inform and Train – You need to record your results from stages 1, 2 and 3, create an emergency plan and then inform and train the employees and other occupants in the building.
  5. Review – This risk assessment needs to stay up to date. If you suspect it is no longer valid then you will need to re-examine the assessment and make the required changes.

It is extremely important that a comprehensive fire-risk assessment is carried out in any functional premises, but who is responsible?

In many instances an employer, landlord, property manager or solicitor are most likely to be responsible for establishing that a satisfactory appraisal has been carried out.

The full fire safety advice can be found via a formal set of reports on the legislation released on the Government website. Go to www.communities.gov.uk/firesafety for further information.

15th June 2011