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Importance of staff fire safety training

Why is fire safety training for employees in the workplace so important?

From 1st October 2006 The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 requires the Responsible Person of any non-domestic premises to carry out a fire risk assessment, including measures to reduce or eliminate the risk of fire, and identify persons at risk. The Fire Safety Order requires the "responsible person" to ensure all staff receive adequate fire safety training. This meaning it is a requirement for employers to give employees information to ensure they remain safe and know what to do in the event of a fire. The new regime focuses on fire risk assessment and fire prevention, this meaning that training is more significant than ever in order to have a fire-aware workforce. In 2013/14, 22,200 fires occurred in non-domestic buildings. There were 17 deaths and 1,083 injuries in non-domestic buildings. Many people wrongly assume that the prime cause of death from a fire is burning, but death is mostly caused by inhaling the toxic fumes produced by the flames. These fires resulted in there being a financial cost of £7.7 Billion pounds due to fires in the workplace.

What is fire safety training?

In the event of a fire in the workplace, the highest priority is to get everybody out of the building as quickly, efficiently and carefully as possible. Although no matter how many times employees have been informed about the evacuation process and methods of fire protection, reasonable action can be easily forgotten.
The reason for this is that, in an emergency, employees may panic due to the lack of training in the exact process of evacuation. Emergency situation provokes unknown feelings and reactions that require an immediate response, which may not be logical. Fire safety experts believe that training, knowledge and practical experience can cause behaviour to be modified. This involves preparing people for how to deal with a fire, this will lead to the best chance of a safe and methodical evacuation process being conducted.

Hazards in the workplace

Some industries have a higher risk in the chance of a fire. Employees of these types of businesses need to be made aware in order to prevent a fire and been aware of where a fire may ignite. Fire may have a more significant impact on businesses that:

  • stock combustible materials including flammable liquids or gases
  • have poorly maintained equipment or electrical circuits
  • have public access (i.e. are at risk from arson)
  • use heat processes
  • have poor housekeeping standards.
  • have people working alone in parts of the building

However, it is important to note that any organisation may be affected at any time.

Legal duties and responsibilities around fire safety

Those responsible need to be aware of what is legally required of them, in order to decrease a chance of a fire. They need to prevent and reduce the impact of fire on the workplace and need to carry out a fire risk assessment of their workplace. The law states that, when there are 5 or more employees, a record must be kept of significant findings and a definition of a Responsible Person as well as the details of anyone who might be especially at risk in case of fire. Furthermore, fire precautions necessary to safeguard anyone must be provided and maintained. Finally, it is legally required for employees to be trained about the fire precautions in the workplace.

Equipment required in order to prevent and detect a fire

Fire extinguishers

  • Businesses must ensure extinguishers are suitable for the purpose and of sufficient capacity for the fire risks on the premises

Fire alarms and detectors (fire warning systems)

  • Companies need to ensure existing means of detection discover a fire quickly enough to raise an alarm in time for all the occupants to escape to a safe place. Fires where a smoke alarm was not present, accounted for 30 per cent of all dwelling fires and 35 percent of all dwelling fire fatalities in 2014/15.

Escape routes

  • There has to be a reasonable length of time for all the occupants to escape to a place of safety once a fire has been detected.

Maintenance and testing of fire safety equipment

  • All fire doors and escape routes should be regularly checked along with associated lighting and signs.

Good practices

All businesses should implement rules and training that will decrease the likelihood of a fire. General fire safety may seem simple however it is vital to follow. It includes keeping ignition sources away from combustible material, flammable liquids/gases as well as keeping the use of flammable liquids to a minimum and closing containers when they are not in use. It is also important for employees to regularly remove combustible waste, this even including accumulations of dust.

At shutdown, ensure all windows and doors are closed, including doors held open by automatic release units. Also to switch off electrical equipment not in use, and where appropriate, unplug and ensure all flammable or combustible waste is removed to a safe place

Emergency planning and training is crucial to ensure employees are familiar with the evacuation process. It is imperative to have the procedures clearly indicated throughout the workplace.
All staff should be made aware of, and be required to comply with, company policy on general fire precautions such as; no-smoking rules, procedures for handling waste and rubbish, keeping escape routes and fire equipment unobstructed and immediate reporting of any faulty equipment.

In conclusion, fire can present a significant risk to businesses. It can kill or seriously injure employees or visitors and can damage or destroy buildings, equipment and stock. As a result, it is hugely beneficial to provide professional fire safety training for your staff, or chosen designated employees, ensuring that they have the knowledge to respond safely and effectively in the event of a fire.

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