According to the most recent Fire Statistics Monitor, published by the Department for Communities and Local Government, there were a total 258 fire fatalities in England during 2014-2015 as well as 3,235 non-fatal hospital casualties. Of the total fatalities, 68% were a result of an accidental dwelling fire.
Fire and rescue teams attended to nearly 155,000 fires during 2014-2015, suggesting a need for better fire management within both private and commercial properties.
Government guidelines state that you’re responsible for fire safety if you’re an owner, landlord or occupier of a business or other non-domestic premises. You’re also responsible for fire safety if you own a property which caters to paying guests, such as a B&B or guesthouse.
As the ‘responsible person,’ there are a number of duties you’re expected to carry out to ensure your premises is secure and employees are kept safe. Such duties, according to the gov.uk website, include:
– Conducting a fire safety risk assessment of the property and reviewing it on a regular basis
– Informing staff about potential fire risks and providing training on fire safety
– Putting in place adequate fire safety measures
– Planning for an emergency
Fire risk assessment
Conducting a thorough fire risk assessment will help limit the chance of a fire occurring within the property. When carrying out the assessment, the government advises people to follow a five-step process:
Identify all fire hazards
Three things are needed to make a fire: fuel, oxygen and ignition. The first thing you should do is make a note of all sources which could provide the fuel, oxygen or ignition needed to make a fire. These could include waste piles and overstocked products (fuel), air conditioning units (oxygen), and naked flames and heaters (ignition).
Identify who is at risk
Next, you should identify who would be most at risk if a fire was to occur. For example, people working in rooms with no fire escapes, elderly people, or people working near to fire hazards.
Evaluate, remove, reduce and protect
Identifying potential hazards will enable you to determine the level of fire risk within your premises. What you should next is attempt to remove and reduce potential hazards and take steps to protect employees from fire. For instance, you could replace flammable items with less flammable ones and enforce a safe-smoking policy. When seeking to minimise fire risk, you must also bear the following in mind:
– It’s a necessity to install a fire detection and warning system within commercial property and ensure its range reaches everyone within the building.
– Generally speaking, there should be at least one fire extinguisher per 200m² of floor space and at least one per floor if your building is multi-storey.
– People should be able to use fire safety doors without needing a key. If your premises is regularly accessed by the public you might want to consider fire safety doors with push pads/panic bars. All fire exits should be clearly highlighted with illuminated signs.
– Depending on the size of your premises, you might want to consider additional safety measures such as emergency lighting.
– It’s vital for you to have dedicated safe routes within your premises which will allow your employees to easily exit the building in the event of a fire. Ideally, there should be more than one route for each part of the building and the travel distance should be as short as possible.
Record, plan and train
Your assessment needs to be in written form so you can review it and use it to educate staff on your company’s fire procedures. Record potential risks identified in steps 1 and 2, and note what preventative measures you have taken to limit chance of fire.
Use you use the information in the assessment to inform your emergency plan, which should include a step-by-step guide of what to do in the event of a fire. It is vital to educate all staff on the potential fire hazards and make them aware of your emergency plan.
As your business evolves, so should your fire safety risk assessment. Likewise, you must remember to train any new staff on your company’s fire safety procedures.
The majority of fires are caused by accident but they are often a result of negligence. Ensuring you conduct a thorough fire safety risk assessment will help to prevent your business as well as your employees.
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