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How to improve Fire Safety at work

schedule 18th April 2019 by Virtual College in Health and Safety Last updated on 9th July 2019

improve fire safety at work

Why is Fire Safety important?

The dangers of fire in the workplace cannot be underestimated. Each and every year here in the UK, around 20,000 fires are recorded in the commercial sector, and these result in major damage to businesses, in terms of materials, equipment, premises and more. This of course is significantly overshadowed by the hundreds who are injured, often with long-term consequences, and those that unfortunately lose their lives. As a result, it’s really important that all businesses, are fully equipped with the tools, the knowledge and the procedure needed to have a high level of fire safety.

What can businesses do to improve Fire Safety?

Thankfully, this isn’t necessarily a complex process, and there are always things that a business can do better. In this article, we’re going to take a look at some of the most important things to think about that most businesses can implement.

Risk assessment

The risk assessment is the foundation on which good fire safety policy is built. As a business, you or your fire officer should have done one already, but there’s always time to conduct one if you haven’t, update yours if it’s old, or look to improve on the one you’ve got.

A risk assessment doesn’t necessarily need technical knowledge, although many businesses with more complex needs will certainly look to have an expert help. The concept however is very simple. You should go around your entire premises and consider all of the risks that you can find that pertain to fire and be as detailed as possible. By identifying risks, you’ll be able to determine how the hazard can be avoided entirely, or how it can be mitigated.

Look for issues such as propped open fire doors, stacked flammable items such as paper and cardboard, obstructed fire escape routes, missing or damaged signage, electrical equipment that could cause a spark etc. You also need to think about the people who might be in your buildings. Does anyone need special help? In the event of a fire, do they face hazards that not everyone will?

Policy & procedure

Making sure you have a sound policy in process that also explains the procedure when there is a fire, is really important. Generally, it will be informed by your risk assessment. A good policy will be formed by clear documents that explain what people need to do in their day-to-day roles to ensure fires are less likely, and what they should do if the alarm is raised or a fire is discovered.

Too many businesses don’t have any clear documentation or instructions. Even if you discover that your premises is relatively fire safe, and that staff seem to know what they should do, you should still endeavour to put together a clear fire procedure with day-to-day policy to go with it.



Frequently Asked Fire Safety Questions

What is fire safety?

Fire safety is a set of procedures which aim to reduce the amount of damage and injuries caused by fires. These include risk assessments to help identify and reduce areas of fire risk and formulate an emergency and evacuation plan in the event that a fire does break out.

Can water make fire worse?

Depending on the type of fire, using water to try and extinguish it can make the situation worse. In the event of a fire, its best to use a fire extinguisher which correlates to the type of fire you’re dealing with, but only attempt to do this if your exit is clear.

Do I need a fire prevention plan?

It is recommended that any business which carries a higher risk of fire than average, such as from storing combustible waste or chemicals on site, has a fire prevention plan to properly protect both the business and the environment from damage.

Do you have to be a firefighter to be a fire inspector?

While it isn’t essential to have firefighting experience to become a fire inspector, the majority of fire inspectors have spend an amount of time as firefighters. Those fire inspectors who don’t have hands on experience usually come from roles which relate to fire safety outside of the traditional fire service.

Click here - to go to our Fire Safety FAQ hub page where you’ll find answers to the most frequently asked questions we receive around all of our areas of expertise.


Equipment

Equipment is of course a really important element in dealing with fires.

Your building should already have been built with fire safety in mind, which will include things like fire doors, but if you have any concerns in this area, then you should consult an expert.

There are however plenty of things that you can do yourself without any major work. Extinguishers are of course the clearest example of this. They’re a hugely useful tool for dealing with small fires, though you must ensure that you purchase the correct ones for any potential fires at your premises.

It’s worth noting that if you already have fire extinguishers within the premises, you need to have them regularly checked to ensure they’re still safe and effective to use. This should be done by a qualified individual and is recommended yearly.

Fire Extinguishers

An important part of this is the equipment that’s present in the workplace, and the most conspicuous of which is of course the fire extinguisher. These are important tools in preventing small fires, and while not designed to tackle large fires, should be readily available to staff in order to prevent incidents getting out of hand.

For more information on Fire Extinguishers check out our Fire Safety guide which will explain the different types and everything else you need to know about Fire Extinguishers.

Important: Fire extinguishers are designed to be able to be used by anyone with basic training or following the instructions on the unit. However, they are designed for use with small fires that are not out of control. You should not attempt to use one if you do not feel it is safe to do so. If in doubt, follow fire safety best practice by raising the alarm and escaping to the designated assembly point.

Training

Training can really help to ensure that employees know what they’re doing when it comes to both preventing fires in the first place and acting safely if one should occur. If fire safety training isn’t a staple part of your business that happens on a regular basis, then this is something you should change straight away. Having more people within the organisation that have taken fire safety training will both reduce the likelihood of a fire in the first place, as well as reducing the impact should one happen. At Virtual College, we think safety is paramount, and we’re pleased to bring you our workplace fire safety course, which can be completed in just one hour.


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Author: Virtual College

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