By taking an interest in fire safety, you can not only help your employer, but also ensure that the safety of you and your colleagues is being adequately protected.
Your employer has a legal responsibility to make sure you and others are safe in their premises. However under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, you also have a duty as an employee for your own safety and that of your fellow employees. You must assist your employer in keeping the workplace safe by being aware of potential hazards and having an understanding of the steps that need to be taken in order to maintain an acceptable level of safety.
Fire risk assessment
A business is now required to carry out a fire risk assessment to identify any possible dangers in the workplace. As an employee, you may be asked to do this on behalf of your employer. This involves five steps:
- Identify any fire hazards e.g. sources of ignition, fuel or oxygen.
- Identify anyone who could be at risk e.g. a colleague who has a disability or is elderly.
- Evaluate the risk from fire, remove or reduce the risk, and protect from risk by providing fire precautions.
- Record your findings, prepare an emergency plan and inform and train your colleagues on the procedures.
- Review your fire risk assessment regularly and make changes where necessary.
A short guide to making your premises safe from fire >>
Common safety pitfalls
- Locked or blocked fire exits and escape routes
Fire exits should be available for use at all times and provide escape from the building onto a public road, not an enclosed yard! If an escape route is marked as a fire exit then it should be available as one.
- Combustibles stored in staircases
Staircases form the means of escape from upper floors so it's essential, particularly where there is only one staircase in the building, that they are kept free from anything combustible.
- Fire doors wedged open
Particularly where they open on to a staircase, fire doors should not be wedged open.
- Alarm testing
Generally, a fire alarm should be tested on a weekly basis.
- Staff training
Evacuation procedures need to be tested once every six months to make sure that all your colleagues are aware of it and know what to do in the event of an emergency.
- Emergency lighting
If anyone is expected to work in a building where artificial light is the only light source then your employer should install an emergency lighting system.
Finally, what should I do in the event of a fire?
- You should only attempt to put out a fire with a portable fire extinguisher if a fire is in its very early stages and you have been fully trained.
- If you haven't been trained to use a fire extinguisher or the fire is not in its very early stages, get out, stay out and call 999.
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