Fire safety is one of the most important aspects of health and safety, and is something that all businesses, no matter how small, must give some consideration to. Here in the UK, we have wide ranging and strict fire safety laws, and standards that equipment must follow, to the point that fire safety signage and equipment is commonplace and easily recognised. But is it really that important that we have so many laws and other requirements? In this article, we’re going to take a brief look at why it’s so important that businesses follow the law when it comes to fires, and why they need to follow the spirit of the law too.
Fire risks cannot be understated. Thousands occur in commercial premises each and every year in the UK, with retail distribution centres such as warehouses, and industrial premises the most commonly affected. This costs millions of pounds to rectify, and many businesses struggle to recover following a serious fire. Stock, equipment and the premises itself can be destroyed, and even with
But this of course pales in comparison with the significance of injury statistics. Hundreds receive severe burns and other injuries, and tens of people die needlessly each year because of accidental - and sometimes intentional - fires in the workplace.
There’s no debate that fire safety legislation is important - it save businesses, it keeps people safe from injury, and it also saves lives. There are two main things to think about that demonstrate why the most common types of fire safety practice are so very critical to the everyday running of a business.
The first step in preventing fires from happening in the first place is through thorough preparation as the result of good risk assessment and policy. This is something that the HSE requires businesses or premises managers do before anyone is allowed to work. Ultimately, with excellent prevention strategies, the risk of a fire breaking out in the first place can be hugely reduced, and this is far better than dealing with a fire once it’s broken out.
There are many elements to prevention, but it all starts with the risk assessment that aims to locate potential hazards. Let’s take an office for example. All electrical equipment such as computers and monitors should be checked regularly to ensure that the wiring is safe. Around 25% of accidental workplace fires are caused by electricity, and most could be prevented by the careful checking and use of appliances. Lit cigarettes are another major cause of fires - both commercial and residential - so employees who smoke must ensure that they do so in a designated area, with a fire safe bin for them to dispose of cigarette butts.
In more complex environments, preventative measures may be more significant, such as keeping potentially flammable items such as aerosols away from any potential source of a spark.
Fire safety consideration is everywhere you look, and you might never have noticed much of it before, but it’s there to save lives in an emergency situation. There are many of examples of this.
One such example is the humble fire door. These are doors that should always be shut after using, because they guarantee an amount of time in which they can resist fire. In an emergency, they can protect people who cannot escape, giving them time until the fire brigade arrives. It can sometimes seem like an unnecessary expense having all manner of highly specified parts to a building, but if they were not there, things would be much more severe in an emergency situation.
Similarly, fire training, and fire drills in particular, can sometimes be seen as a chore, but if they didn’t happen, people would not know what to do in the event of a fire. We like to imagine that we’d make the right choices if we didn’t specifically know where to go in the event of a fire, but the reality is that people make mistakes, and not making the right choice can be a matter of life and death. It can’t be understated how important it is for employees to know what they need to do when the fire alarm goes off.