Ensuring Fire Safety At Work
Fire safety is possibly one of the most important things that employers need to consider, alongside other health and safety measures.
Workplaces often have a high number of people entering the building, and workplaces often hold highly flammable materials such as chemicals and paper documents.
Luckily, it is possible to manage fire risks by installing effective fire safety solutions, such as fire doors and extinguishers. But the question is; who is actually responsible for fire safety in the workplace? Below, we will discuss who is responsible. We will also talk about some of the most common causes of workplace fires, and how we employers can prevent them.
Why is Fire Safety in The Workplace Important?
In the United Kingdom, fire safety regulations can change quite often, so it can be difficult to keep up with the legal requirements. Workplaces sometimes think their fire safety is compliant with the law without realising their safety protocol is actually outdated, and therefore unsafe.
Many workplaces house flammable materials, meaning fires can be devastating if not controlled. During one year alone, 22,200 fires were reported in non-dwelling properties in the UK!
Workplaces have a high footfall, meaning many lives are at risk from workplace fires. Also, fires can destroy property, which can completely ruin a business. Often, Insurance companies don’t cover the cost of damage if appropriate fire safety solutions weren't in place!
Who Is Responsible for Fire Safety In The Workplace?
The responsibility for fire safety in the workplace used to lie with the emergency services which has changed, with multiple people now responsible, including:
Anyone who has control of the premises
Under The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (the "Fire Safety Order") these people are all known as "responsible" person/people. When there is more than one responsible person, they all need to discuss who is responsible for what.
Common Causes of Workplace Fires
The National Fire Chiefs Council cited arson as the cause for 50.5 per cent of fires attended in one year by fire & rescue services. Arson is the single largest cause of fires attended by emergency services. This is why it should never be overlooked by employers.
A great way to prevent arson on your workplace premises, as well as other criminal activity, is to install CCTV cameras. The responsible person should also ensure that the building is kept well lit at all times. Criminals are a lot less likely to target your business if there’s a chance they’ll be caught on camera.
Electrical faults are one of the biggest causes of workplace fires. Often, it’s faulty wiring, old and malfunctioning equipment and overloaded sockets. Electrical fires are particularly dangerous, this is because they can’t be put out with fire.
You must have an annual PAT test carried out on all the electrical equipment in your workplace. All staff should be trained in electrical safety to further minimise the risk of faulty equipment causing fires.
In addition to PAT testing, businesses should always carry out Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) tests. This is a fixed wire test which checks the safety of all electrical systems and installations throughout the building.
Incorrect Storage of Combustible Materials
A common cause of workplace fires is Improper storage of flammable materials. This risk is especially high in workshops and garages, as the sparks from saws and other cutting equipment can often set light to surrounding materials. Sparks can reach combustible chemicals and oil barrels in workshops, leading to fires with devastating consequences.
The best way to reduce this risk is to store flammable materials away in a closed, protected, dry environment. By ensuring sparks/controlled flames can’t reach the flammable materials nearby, If sparks or controlled open flames can’t reach your flammable materials, then materials should not catch light. Makes sense, right?
Although there are a huge amount of causes for workplace fires, most fall under the umbrella of human error. This is why providing proper training for employees is a fundamental part of workplace fire safety. Let’s break employee training up into two parts; preventing fires and dealing with fires.
First, preventing fires. This means creating an understanding of the causes of fires, along with how to act accordingly. One example is that employees should always be trained to use any machinery and appliances correctly.
Leaving food in the oven for too long or placing materials over a vent can cause overheating, and fires. This is a form of human error. Carelessness from employees is dangerous in a business environment. Accidents do happen though, this is why it is crucial to also train employees to deal with fires correctly.
Ensuring fire extinguishers are always readily available minimises the risk that human error can bring to your premises. Staff should be trained to handle the extinguishers correctly and know which type is to be used for different fires. As much as is possible, encourage employees to pay full attention to what they’re doing at all times. Even when on a break.
Seek Help From A Professional
Being able to completely prevent fire in the workplace is not possible, but training employees on fire safety can make a huge difference. Implementing the different fire prevention methods mentioned above manages the risks, and also hugely reduces the chances of a fire breaking out.
Get in touch with a professional means to look over your fire doors, fire alarms, extinguishers, and risk assessments. This gives you peace of mind that all your measures are compliant and effective. Kiasu Workforce has a team of highly trained professionals who can ensure all these safety measures are in good working order.