Our Fire Strategy guide for businesses provides guidance for a responsible person, to help them to
carry out a fire risk assessment in their workplace premises.
If you read the fire safety guide and decide that you are unable to apply the guidance, then you should seek advice from a competent person.
Why is Fire Safety important?
Fire safety is only one of many safety issues with which management must concern themselves to minimise the risk of injury or death to staff or the public.
Perhaps unlike most of the other safety concerns, fire has the potential to injure or kill large numbers of people very quickly.
If you are helping to manage safety in a commercial premises, make sure not to miss out on our free Fire Safety Awareness course.
Who is Responsible for Fire Safety in the Workplace?
Responsibility for complying with the relevant Fire Safety regulations rests with the ‘responsible person’. In a workplace, this is the employer and any other person who may have control of any part of the premises, e.g. the occupier or owner.
In all other premises, the person or people in control of the premises will be responsible.
What if there is more than one ‘responsible person’?
If there is more than one responsible person in any type of premises (e.g. a multi-occupied complex), all must take all reasonable steps to co-operate and co-ordinate with each other.
Do I need a Fire Risk Assessment?
If you are the responsible person, you must carry out a fire risk assessment which focuses on the safety in case of fire for all ‘relevant persons’.
It should pay particular attention to those at special risk, such as disabled people, those who you know have special needs and young persons and must include consideration of any dangerous substance liable to be on the premises.
Your fire risk assessment will help you identify risks that can be removed or reduced and to decide the
nature and extent of the general fire precautions you need to take.
If your organisation employs five or more people, your premises are licensed or an alterations notice is in force, you (the Occupier, Operator and/or Employer) must record the significant findings of the assessment.
As with other Risk Assessments, it is good practice to record your significant findings in any case.
Fire Safety Downaloads & More...
Responsible Person's Fire Safety Duties
- Competent Person You must appoint one or more competent persons, depending on the size and use of your premises, to carry out any of the preventive and protective measures (you can nominate yourself for this purpose).
2. Information & Instruction You must provide your employees with clear and relevant information on the risks to them identified by the fire risk assessment, about the measures you have taken to prevent fires, and how these measures will protect them if a fire breaks out.
3. Delegation & Consultation You must consult your employees (or their elected representatives) about nominating people to carry out particular roles in connection with fire safety and about proposals for improving the fire precautions.
4. Young Person’s You must, before you employ a child, provide a parent with clear and relevant information on the risks to that child identified by the risk assessment, the measures you have put in place to prevent/protect them from fire and inform any other responsible person of any risks to that child arising from their undertaking.
5. Contractors & Temporary Workers You must inform non-employees, such as temporary or contract workers, of the relevant risks to them, and provide them with information about who are the nominated competent persons, and about the fire safety procedures for the premises.
6. Co-ordination You must co-operate and co-ordinate with other responsible persons who also have premises in the building, inform them of any significant risks you find and how you will seek to reduce/control those risks which might affect the safety of their employees.
7. Sub-Contracting You must provide the employer of any person from an outside organisation who is working in your premises (e.g. an agency providing temporary staff) with clear and relevant information on fire safety.
8. Facilities/Building Management If you are not the employer but have any control of premises which contain more than one workplace, you are responsible for those parts over which you have control.
9. Dangerous Substances/COSHH You must consider the presence of any dangerous substances and the risk this presents to relevant persons from fire.
10. Emergency Planning You must establish a suitable means of contacting the emergency services and provide them with any relevant information about dangerous substances.
12. Maintenance & Inspection You must ensure that the premises and any equipment provided in connection with firefighting, fire detection and warning, or emergency routes and exits are covered by a suitable system of maintenance, inspection & testing
13. Employees Responsibilities Your employees must co-operate with you to ensure the workplace is safe from fire and its effects, and must not do anything that will place themselves or other people at risk.
Managing Fire Safety
Good management of fire safety is essential to achieve the folllowing;
- To ensure that fires are unlikely to occur
- If a fire does occur, it is likely to be controlled or contained quickly, effectively and safely
- If a fire does occur and grow, those affected are able to escape to safety easily and quickly.
The risk assessment that you must carry out will help you ensure that your fire safety procedures, fire prevention measures, and fire precautions (plans, systems and equipment) are all in place and working properly, and the risk assessment should identify any issues that need attention.
What is a Fire Risk Assessment?
A fire risk assessment is an organised and methodical look at your premises, the activities carried on there and the likelihood that a fire could start and cause harm to those in and around the premises
The aims of the fire risk assessment are:
• To identify the fire hazards.
• To reduce the risk of those hazards causing harm to as low as reasonably practicable.
• To decide what physical fire precautions and management arrangements are necessary to ensure the safety of people in your premises if a fire does start.
The terms ‘hazard’ and ‘risk’ are used throughout this guide and it is important that you have a clear understanding of how these should be used.
How do you carry out a Fire Risk Assessment?
A fire risk assessment will help you determine the chances of a fire starting and the dangers from fire that your premises may present for users.
There are many different approaches to developing a fire strategy e.g. PAS 79, and carrying out a fire risk assessment.
The assessment method in this guide shares the same approach as that often used in general H&S risk assessment (see image). The work can can be carried out either as part of a more general risk assessment or as a separate exercise.
Much of the information for your fire risk assessment should come from the knowledge your employees, colleagues and representatives have of the premises, as well as information provided by other responsible persons.
A thorough tour of your premises will is strongly recommended to confirm, amend or add detail to your assessment
5 Steps of Fire Risk Assessment
In larger premises you may find it helpful to divide them into rooms or a series of assessment areas using natural boundaries, e.g. process areas (such as bakeries and cooking facilities in shops), offices, stores, as well as corridors, stairways and external routes.
Let’s take a look at the first in our 5 steps of fire risk assessment;
The 5 Steps of Fire Risk Assessment
STEP 1 Identifying Fire Hazards
For a fire to start, three things are needed:
• a source of ignition
If any one of these is missing, a fire cannot start. Taking measures to avoid the three coming together will therefore reduce.
Let’s look at how to identify potential ignition sources, the materials that might fuel a fire and the oxygen supplies that will help it burn.
Identify Sources of Ignition
You can identify the potential ignition sources in your premises by looking for possible sources of heat which could get hot enough to ignite material found in your premises.
These sources of ignition include, but are not limited to;
- smokers’ material, e.g. cigarettes, matches and lighters;
- naked flames, e.g. candles or gas or liquid-fuelled open-flame equipment;
- electrical, gas or oil-fired heaters (fixed or portable);
- hot processes, e.g. welding by contractors or shrink wrapping;
- cooking equipment;
- faulty or misused electrical equipment;
- lighting equipment, e.g. halogen
lamps or display lighting too close to
- hot surfaces and obstruction of
equipment ventilation, e.g. office
Indications of ‘near-misses’, such as scorch marks on furniture or fittings, discoloured or charred electrical plugs and sockets, cigarette burns etc., can help you identify hazards which
you may not otherwise notice.
Identify Sources of Fuel
Anything that burns is fuel for a fire. You need to look for the things that will burn reasonably easily and are in enough quantity to provide fuel for a fire or cause it to spread to another fuel source. Some of the most common ‘fuels’ found in offices and shops are:
- flammable-liquid-based products, such as paints, varnishes, thinners and adhesives;
- flammable liquids and solvents, such as white spirit, methylated spirit, cooking oils and disposable cigarette lighters;
- flammable chemicals, such as certain cleaning products, photocopier chemicals & dry cleaning that uses hydrocarbon solvents;
- packaging materials, stationery, advertising material and decorations;
- plastics and rubber, such as video tapes, polyurethane foam-filled furniture and polystyrene-based display materials;
- textiles and soft furnishings, such as hanging curtains and clothing displays;
- waste products, particularly finely divided items such as shredded paper and
wood shavings, off cuts, and dust; and
- flammable & compressed gases such as liquefied petroleum gas, hydrogen, acetylene.
You should also consider the materials used to line walls and ceilings, e.g. polystyrene or carpet tiles, the fixtures and fittings, and how they might contribute to the spread of fire.
Sources of Oxygen
The main source of oxygen for a fire is in the air around us.
In an enclosed building this is provided by the ventilation system in use.
This generally falls into one of two categories:
- natural airflow through doors, windows and other openings
- mechanical air conditioning systems and air handling systems.
In many buildings there will be a combination of systems, capable of introducing and/or extracting air to & from the building.
Additional sources of oxygen can sometimes be found in materials used or stored at premises such as:
- some chemicals (oxidising materials), which can provide a fire with additional oxygen and so help it burn. These chemicals should be identified on their container (and Control of Substances Hazardous to Health data sheet) by the
manufacturer or supplier who can advise as to their safe use and storage
- oxygen supplies from cylinder storage and piped systems, e.g. oxygen used in welding processes; and
- pyrotechnics (fireworks), which contain oxidising materials and need to be treated
with great care.
STEP 2 Identifying People at Risk from Fire
As part of your fire risk assessment, you need to identify those at risk if there is a fire.
To do this you need to identify where you have people working, either at permanent workstations or at occasional locations around the premises, and to consider who else may be at risk, such as customers, visiting contractors etc., and where these people are likely to be found.
You must consider all the people who use the premsies but you should pay particular attention to people who may be especially at risk such as:
- employees who work alone and/or in isolated areas, e.g. cleaners, security staff
- people who are unfamiliar with the premises, e.g. seasonal workers, contractors, visitors and customers
- people with language difficulties.
- people with disabilities* or those who may have some other reason for not being able to leave the premises quickly, e.g. elderly customers or parents with children;
- persons in the immediate vicinity of the premises;
* In evaluating the risk to people with disabilities you may need to discuss their individual needs with them. In larger buildings used extensively by the public you may need to seek professional advice.
STEP 3 Evaluate, Reduce and Protect from Risk
The management of the premises and the way people use it will have an effect on your evaluation of risk.
As previous discussed, fire risk management may be your responsibility alone or there may be others, such as the building owners or managing agents, who also have responsibilities. It is important to co-operate, share information and consider the risk generated by others in the building.
Evaluate the Risk of a Fire Occurring
In general, fires start in one of three ways:
- accidentally, such as when smoking materials are not properly extinguished or
when lighting displays are knocked over;
- by act or omission, such as when electrical office equipment is not properly maintained, or when waste packaging is allowed to accumulate near to a heat source; and
- deliberately, such as an arson attack involving setting fire to external rubbish bins placed too close to the building.
The chances of a fire starting will be low if your premises has few ignition sources and combustible materials are kept away from them.
Look critically at your premises and try to identify any accidents waiting to happen and any acts or omissions which might allow a fire to start. You should also look for any situation that may present an opportunity for an arsonist.
Evaluate the Risk to People
It is unlikely that you will have concluded that there is no chance of a fire starting anywhere in your premises.
If you have found that there is some risk of fire occurring, you now need to evaluate the actual risk to people should a fire start and spread from the various locations that you have identified.
While determining the possible incidents, you should also consider the likelihood of any particular incident; but be aware that some very unlikely incidents can put many people at risk.
To evaluate the risk to people in your premises, you will need to understand the ways that fire can spread. Fire is typically spread by three pathways:
Fire spread by convection is the most dangerous and causes the largest number of injuries and deaths.
When fires start in enclosed spaces such as buildings, the smoke rising from the fire gets trapped by the ceiling and then spreads in all
directions to form an ever-deepening layer over the entire room space.
The smoke will pass through any holes or gaps in the walls, ceiling and floor into other parts of the building. The heat from the fire gets trapped in the building and the temperature rises.
Some materials, such as metal shutters and ducting, can absorb heat and transmit it to the next room.
As a result, this heat transfer can set fire to combustible items that are in contact with the heated material.
Radiation heats the air in the same way as an electric bar heater heats a room.
Any material close to a fire will absorb the heat until the item starts to smoulder and then eventually start to burn.
One of the most dangerous aspects of a fire is the smoke that is generated via the burning of materials. Smoke produced by a fire also contains toxic gases which are very harmful to people.
A fire in a building with modern fittings and materials generates smoke that is thick and black, obscures vision, causes great difficulty in breathing and can block the escape routes.
Fire Spread & Safe Means of Escape
It is essential that the means of escape and other fire precautions are adequate to ensure that everyone can make their escape to a place of total safety before the fire and its effects can trap them in the building.
In evaluating this risk to people you will need to consider situations such as:
- fire starting on a lower floor affecting the only escape route for people on upper floors or the only escape route for people with disabilities;
- fire developing in an unoccupied space that people have to pass by to escape from the building;
- fire or smoke spreading through a building via routes such as vertical shafts, service ducts, ventilation systems, poorly installed, poorly maintained or damaged walls, partitions and ceilings affecting people in remote areas;
- fire starting in a service room and affecting hazardous materials;
- fire spreading rapidly through the building because of combustible structural
elements and/or large quantities of combustible goods;
- rapid vertical fire spread in racked display fire and smoke spreading through a building due to poor installation of fire precautions, e.g. incorrectly installed fire doors (see Appendix B2 for more information on fire doors) or incorrectly installed services penetrating fire walls;
- fire and smoke spreading through the building due to poorly maintained and damaged fire doors or fire doors being wedged open
Remove or Reduce the Hazards
Having identified the fire hazards in Step 1, you now need to remove those hazards if reasonably practicable to do so.
If you cannot remove the hazards, you need to take reasonable steps to reduce them if you can. This is an essential part of fire risk assessment and as a priority this must take place before any other actions.
Ensure that any actions you take to remove or reduce fire hazards or risk are not substituted by other hazards or risks. For example, if you replace a flammable substance with a toxic or corrosive one, you must consider whether this might cause harm to people in other ways.
Remove/reduce Sources of Ignition
Within the workplace environment, there are many potential sources of ignition.
It is important to note, some are much more obvious than others.
There are various ways that you can reduce the risk caused by potential sources of ignition, for example:
- Wherever possible replace a potential ignition source by a safer alternative.
- Replace naked flame and radiant heaters with fixed convector heaters or a central
heating system. Restrict the movement of and guard portable heating appliances.
- Separate ignition hazards and combustibles e.g. ensure sufficient clear space between lights and combustibles.
- Operate a safe smoking policy in designated smoking areas and prohibit
- Ensure electrical and mechanical and gas equipment is installed, used,
maintained and protected in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Check all areas where hot work (e.g. welding) has been carried out to ensure that no ignition has taken place or any smouldering materials remain
- Ensure that no-one carrying out work on gas fittings which involves exposing
pipes with flammable gases uses any equipment that acts as a source of ignition
- Take precautions to avoid arson.
Remove/reduce Sources of Fuel
There are various ways that you can reduce the risks caused by materials and substances which burn, for example:
- Reduce stocks of flammable materials, liquids and gases on display in public
areas to a minimum. Keep remaining stock in dedicated storerooms or storage
areas where the public are not allowed to go, and keep the minimum required for
- Ensure flammable materials, liquids and gases, are kept to a minimum, and are
stored properly with adequate separation distances between them.
- Keep areas containing flammable gasses ventilated.
- Do not keep flammable solids,
liquids and gases together.
- Remove, or treat large areas of
highly combustible wall and ceiling
linings, e.g. polystyrene or carpet
tiles, to reduce the rate of flame
spread across the surface.
- Develop a formal system for the control of combustible waste by ensuring that waste materials and rubbish carefully stored until properly disposed of.
- Take action to avoid storage areas being vulnerable to arson or vandalism.
- Check all areas where hot work (e.g. welding) has been carried out to ensure that no ignition has taken place and no smouldering or hot materials remain that may cause a fire later.
Remove/Reduce Sources of Oxygen
As we think back to the fire triangle, we have ignition source, fuel and then oxygen. You can reduce the potential sources of oxygen supplied to a fire by:
- closing all doors, windows and other openings not required for ventilation,
particularly out of working hours;
- shutting down ventilation systems which are not essential to the function of
- not storing oxidising materials near or with any heat source or flammable
- controlling the use and storage of oxygen cylinders, ensuring that they are not leaking, are not used to ‘sweeten’ the atmosphere, and that where they are
located is adequately ventilated.
Remove or Reduce Risks to People
Having evaluated and addressed the risk of fire occuring and the risk to people (preventative measures), it is unlikely that you will be able to conclude that no risk remains of fire starting and presenting a risk to people in your premises.
You now need to reduce any remaining fire risk to people to as low as reasonably practicable, by ensuring that adequate fire precautions are in place to warn people in the event of a fire and allow them to safely escape.
The rest of this step describes the fire protection measures you may wish to adopt to reduce the remaining fire risk to people. The level of fire protection you need to provide will depend on the level of risk that remains in the premises…
In some small, open-plan, single-storey offices and shops, a fire may be obvious to everyone as soon as it starts.
In these cases, where the number and position of exits and the travel distance to them is adequate, a simple shout of ‘fire’ or a simple manually operated sounder device may be all that is needed. Where this is not deemed adequate, it is likely that an electrical fire warning system will be required.
In larger premises e.g. with multiple floors, an electrical system incorporating sounders and manually operated call points (break-glass boxes) is likely to be required.
This type of system is likely to be acceptable where all parts of the building are occupied at the same time and it is unlikely that a fire could start without somebody noticing it quickly.
Where it is likely that areas will be unoccupied, including areas that act as escape routes, an automatic fire detection system may be necessary.
You may need to consider special arrangements for times when people are working alone, are disabled, or when your normal occupancy patterns are different, e.g. when contractors are working at the weekend.
Is your Fire Strategy for Detection adequate?
Firefighting Equipment & Facilities
Firefighting equipment can help eliminate the risk of a small fire spreading, e.g. a fire in a waste-paper bin. The safe use of an appropriate fire extinguisher to control a fire in its early stages can also significantly reduce the risk to other people in the premises by allowing people to assist others who are at risk.
This equipment will usually comprise enough portable extinguishers that must be suitable for the risk.
Do I need Fire Extinguishers?
In small premises, having one or two portable extinguishers of the appropriate type,
readily available for use, may be all that is necessary.
In larger, more complex premises, a number of portable extinguishers may be required and they should be sited in suitable locations, e.g. on the escape routes at each floor level. It may also
be useful to indicate the location of extinguishers by suitable signs.
People with no training should not be expected to attempt to extinguish a fire.
However, all staff should be familiar with the location and basic operating procedures for the equipment provided, in case they need to use it. Moreover, it’s important for people to understand that different classes of fire require specific firefighting applications.
The same applies for anyone who is given an active role in the fire strategy i.e. fire marshall, fire wardens.
Other fixed installations and facilities to assist firefighters, such as dry rising mains and access for fire engines, or automatically operated, fixed fire suppression systems such as sprinkler systems may also have been provided. Such facilities must be kept maintained by a competent person.
Once a fire has started, been detected and a warning given, everyone in your premises should be able to escape to a place of total safety unaided and without the help of the fire and rescue service.
Escape routes should be designed to ensure, as far as possible, that any person confronted by fire anywhere in the building, should be able to turn away from it and escape to a place of reasonable safety, e.g. a protected stairway.
From there they will be able to go directly to a place of total safety away from the building.
Of course, some people with disabilities and others with special needs may need from staff who will need to be designated for the purpose. When determining whether your premises have adequate escape routes, you need to consider a number of factors, including:
• the type and number of people using the premises;
• escape time;
• the age and construction of the premises;
• the number and complexity of escape routes and exits;
• whether lifts can or need to be used;
• the use of phased or delayed alarm evacuation; and
• assisted means of escape/personal evacuation plans (PEEPS).
Evacuation of People with Mobility Impairment
The means of escape you provide must be suitable for the evacuation of everyone likely to be in your premises.
This may require additional planning and allocation of staff roles – with appropriate training.
Provisions for the emergency evacuation of disabled persons may include:
• evacuation lifts;
• firefighting lifts;
• horizontal evacuation;
• refuges; and
Use of these facilities will need to be linked to effective management arrangements as part of your emergency plan.
The plan should not rely on fire and rescue service involvement for it to be effective.
Emergency Escape Lighting
People in your premises must be able to find their way to a place of total safety if there is a fire.
A critical part be being able to do this safely is via the use of escape routes that have sufficient and adequate lighting.
Where any escape routes are internal and without windows, or your premises are used during periods of darkness, including early darkness on winter days, then some form of backup to the normal escape route lighting (emergency escape lighting) is likely to be required.
Where people have difficulty seeing conventional signs, a ‘way-guidance’ system may need to be considered.
Fire Exit Signs & Notices
Signs must be used, where necessary, to help people identify escape routes, find firefighting equipment and emergency fire telephones.
A fire risk assessment that determines that no escape signs are required (because, for example, trained staff will always be available to help members of the public to escape routes), is unlikely to be acceptable other than in the simplest of premises where the exits are in regular use and
familiar to employees and visitors.
Where the locations of escape routes and firefighting equipment are readily apparent and the firefighting equipment is visible at all times, then signs are not necessary. In all other situations it is likely that the fire risk assessment will indicate that signs will be necessary.
Notices must be used, where necessary, to provide the following:
• instructions on how to use any fire safety equipment;
• the actions to be taken in the event
of fire; and
• help for the fire and rescue service (e.g. location of sprinkler valves or electrical cut-off switches).
All signs and notices should be positioned so that they can be easily seen and understood.
Installation, Testing & Maintenance
You must keep any existing equipment, devices or facilities that are provided in your premises for the safety of people, in effective working order and maintain fire separating elements and the prevention of smoke into escape routes.
This includes fire alarms, fire extinguishers, lighting, signs, fire exits and fire doors,
You must ensure regular checks, periodic servicing and maintenance are carried out whatever the size of your premises and any defects are put right as quickly as possible. You, or a person you have nominated, can carry out certain checks and routine maintenance work.
Further maintenance may need to be carried out by a competent service engineer.
How often should a Fire Alarm be Tested?
The following are examples of checks and tests that should be carried out on your fire safety and emergency evacuation systems and associated equipment.
The examples of testing and maintenance given are not intended to be prescriptive and other testing regimes may be appropriate, depending on the risk profile of your operation.
Remove bolts, padlocks and security devices from fire exits, ensure that doors on escape routes swing freely and close fully and check escape routes to ensure they are clear from obstructions and combustible materials.
Check the fire alarm panel to ensure the system is active and fully operational. Where practicable, visually check that emergency lighting units are in good repair and working. Check that all safety signs and notices are legible.
weekly tests and CHECKS
Test fire-detection and warning systems and manually-operated warning devices
weekly following the manufacturer’s or installer’s instructions.
Check the batteries of safety torches and that fire extinguishers and hose reels are correctly located
and in apparent working order.
Fire pumps and standby diesel engines should be tested for 30 minutes each week.
MONTHLY TESTS AND CHECKS
Test all emergency lighting systems and safety torches to make sure they have enough charge and illumination according to the manufacturer’s or supplier’s instructions.
This should be at an appropriate time when, following the test, they will not be immediately required.
Check that fire doors are in good working order and closing correctly and that the
frames and seals are intact.
6-MONTHLY TESTS & ANNUAL CHECKS
A competent person should test and maintain the fire-detection and warning system EVERY 6 MONTHS.
The emergency lighting and all firefighting equipment, fire alarms and other installed systems should be tested and maintained by a competent person. This may include the commonly used 3-hr LIGHTING DURATION TEST.
The structural fire protection and elements of fire compartmentation should be inspected and any remedial action carried out.
STEP 4 Record, Plan and Inform
In Step 4 there are four further elements of the fire risk assessment you should focus on to address the management of fire safety in your premises.
1. record your significant findings
If you or your organisation employ five or more people, your premises are licensed, or an alterations notice requiring you to do so is in force, you must record the significant findings of your fire risk assessment and the actions you have taken.
Significant findings should include details of:
• The fire hazards you have identified (you don’t need to include trivial things like a
small tin of solvent based glue).
• The actions you have taken or will take to remove or reduce the chance of a fire
occurring (preventive measures).
• Persons who may be at risk, particularly those at greatest risk.
• The actions you have taken or will take to reduce the risk to people from the
spread of fire and smoke (protective measures).
• The actions people need to take in case of fire including details of any persons
nominated to carry out a particular function (your emergency plan).
• The information, instruction and training you have identified that people need and
how it will be given.
The findings of your fire risk assessment will help you to develop your emergency plan, the instruction, information and training you need to provide, the co-ordination arrangements needed with other responsible people and the arrangements for maintenance & testing.
You must be able to satisfy the enforcing authority, if called upon to do so, that you have carried out a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment.
Keeping records will help you do this and will also form the basis of your subsequent reviews.
If you keep records, you do not need to record all the details, only those that are significant and the action you have taken.
2 Emergency Plans
You need to have an emergency plan for dealing with any fire situation.
The purpose of an emergency plan is to ensure that the people in your premises know what to do if there is a fire and that the premises can be safely evacuated.
Do I need a Fire Emergency Plan?
If you or your organisation employ five or more people, or your premises are licensed or an alterations notice requiring it is in force, then details of your emergency plan must be recorded.
Your emergency plan should be based on the outcome of your fire risk assessment and be available for your employees, their representatives (where appointed) and the enforcing authority.
In small offices and shops the emergency plan may be no more than a fire action notice.
In multi-occupied, larger and more complex offices and shops, the emergency plan will need to be more detailed and compiled only after consultation with other occupiers and other responsible people, e.g. owners, who have control over the building.
In most cases this means that a single emergency plan covering the whole building will be necessary. It will help if you can agree on one person to co-ordinate this task.
Information, Instruction & Co-ordination
You must give clear and relevant information and appropriate instructions to your staff and the employers of other people working in your premise, such as contractors, about how to prevent fires and what they should do if there is a fire.
The information and instruction you give should be based on your emergency plan and must include:
• the significant findings from your fire risk assessment;
• the measures that you have put in place to reduce the risk;
• what staff should do if there is a fire;
• the identity of people you have nominated with responsibilities for fire safety; and
• any special arrangements for serious and imminent danger to persons from fire.
In buildings owned by someone else, or where there is more than one occupier, and others are responsible for different parts of the building, it is important that you liaise with them and inform them of any significant risks that you have identified.
By liaising you can co-ordinate your resources to ensure that your actions and working practices do not place others at risk if there is a fire, and a co-ordinated emergency plan operates effectively.
Fire Safety Training
You must provide adequate fire safety training for your staff; it should be specific to your premises and;
- take account of the findings of the fire risk assessment;
- explain your emergency procedures;
- explain the duties and responsibilities of staff with reference to their work;
- take place during normal working hours and be repeated periodically where
- be easily understandable by your staff and other people who may be present; and
- be tested by fire drills.
All the staff identified in your emergency plan that have a supervisory role if there is a fire (e.g. heads of department, fire marshals or wardens and, in larger offices and shops, fire parties or teams), should be given details of your fire risk assessment and receive additional training.
STEP 5 Review
You should constantly monitor what you are doing to implement the fire risk assessment to assess how effectively the risk is being controlled.
If you have any reason to suspect that your fire risk assessment is no longer valid or there has been a significant change in your premises that has affected your fire
precautions, you will need to review your assessment and if necessary revise it.
Reasons for review could include:
- changes to work processes or the way that you organise them, including the introduction of new equipment;
- alterations to the building, including the internal layout;
- substantial changes to furniture and fixings;
- the introduction, change of use or increase in the storage of hazardous substances;
- the failure of fire precautions, e.g. fire-detection systems and alarm systems, life safety sprinklers or ventilation systems;
- significant changes to displays or quantities of stock;
- a significant increase in the number of people present; and
- the presence of people with some form of disability.
You should consider the potential risk of any significant change before it is introduced.
It is usually more effective to minimise a risk by, for example, ensuring adequate, appropriate storage space for an item before introducing it to your premises.
If a fire or ‘near miss’ occurs, this could indicate that your existing assessment may be inadequate and you should carry out a re-assessment. It is good practice to identify the cause of any incident and then review and, if necessary, revise your fire risk assessment in the light of this.
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