According to the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, every business owner in England must “make general fire precautions to ensure the safety of any of his employees”.
This means that every employer needs to carry out regular fire safety risk assessments, provide adequate staff training, and do everything in his or her power to minimise the risk of a fire breaking out.
The terms of the order also specify that all UK businesses must invest in adequate fire protection equipment. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) note that ‘failing to provide adequate fire protection equipment can seriously increase the risk of an accidental fire’, so it definitely pays to sit down, and spend some time thinking about the fire protection equipment your business needs.
This might include fire extinguishers, smoke alarms and fire safety notices. In some circumstances, it may also include sprinkler systems, emergency lights or fire doors.
To help you pick out the right equipment, this guide aims to provide some top-level information about the various options available on today’s market, alongside some guidance that’s designed to help you understand the individual needs of your workplace.
It can be quite challenging to work out what fire protection equipment your business needs. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution, and the HSE doesn't produce specific guidelines for different types of business premises, which means that business owners often feel like they’re completely in the dark when it comes to picking out equipment.
To start the ball rolling, you should always start by conducting a thorough fire safety risk assessment. Conducting a risk assessment that looks at:
This should help you to identify the type of equipment your business requires, and enable you to purchase items that meet a specific need. You’ll find advice on conducting your own fire safety risk assessments on our blog.
Once you’ve conducted your own fire safety risk assessment, you’ll be able to pick fire protection equipment from the following categories:
Fire alarms and smoke detectors won’t help you to control a fire, but they are one of the most reliable ways of detecting a fire once it’s broken out, and a good way to warn staff so they can begin evacuating the building.
The HSE recommend that every business install smoke detectors and/or fire alarms, and in many places they are mandatory.
Emergency signage and lighting are crucial parts for preparing your workplace to be able to deal with a fire, highlighting safety procedures, equipment locations and emergency exits. Emergency exits need to be maintained to a predefined safety standard which includes signage and emergency lighting, so you need to make sure yours are adequately signposted within your building. Safety signs can also relay information about your fire escape plan, including evacuation routes and assembly points in the case of a fire.
Fire pumps are part of a fire sprinkler system’s water supply, and are usually powered by electricity or diesel.
There are lots of different types of fire equipment, but there are four main types which are commonly found – fire extinguishers, fire hoses, fire blankets and fire buckets.
The 5 main types of fire extinguisher are – water, powder, foam, CO2, and wet chemical.
Fire equipment signs are red.
Powder, foam or CO2 fire extinguishers should be used for tackling electrical fires.
A Class D fire extinguisher is used exclusively on flammable metals.
Active fire prevention systems include water sprinklers, sprays and other, specialised systems that actively combat a fire. According to the HSE, active fire prevention systems are normally used in the manufacturing industries and/or applications where highly flammable materials are used, but sprinklers and other active systems can also be used to control fires in large warehouses and other open spaces
Passive fire prevention systems include specialist insulation, fire doors and other structural elements that are designed to control the spread of fire. Most passive prevention systems (PFPS) are installed when buildings are first constructed but you may be able to retroactively instal some structural defences if your fire safety risk assessment outlines a pressing need for additional protection.
Extinguishers, hoses and other manual systems allow you to stop fires spreading throughout the workplace and provide some measure of control in the event of a fire.
The HSE advice that all businesses keep fire extinguishers on-hand in kitchen areas, and other areas where there is a significant fire risk.
There are many different types of fires which can arise within the workplace, depending on the type of business it is, so having the corresponding type of fire extinguisher on site is crucial.
Fire hoses and fire blankets also have specific functions when it comes to tackling fires in the office, so keep your staff informed of the proper procedures for tackling fires safely without putting themselves at risk.
Fire escape ladders allow you to create additional points of egress, which may help you to formulate a more reliable evacuation plan/fire safety procedure.
If you’re thinking of installing fire escape ladders, you should probably consult with a structural engineer or architect to ensure that they’re installed legally.
Although not directly part of combatting fire in the workplace, a first aid is needed as part of health and safety protocol within any business and is key in treating those who get injured as a result of a fire.
Minor injuries can be treated with first aid care, with rapid response from an on-site first aider helping to prevent burns from having as much lasting damage and can help keep people calm.If you’d like to learn more about picking the appropriate fire protection equipment, or you would like in-depth training on all areas of fire safety training you may be interested in our fire training for marshals and wardens course, which explores these areas in detail.