Fire protection is often overlooked when considering the vital subject of personal safety. Here, we talk about the key points to look at with regards to fire safety.
Your Legal Responsibility
There are national variations within UK fire safety legislation, which results in different
terms for those who are affected by the legislation, but their duties fundamentally remain the same.
In England and Wales, the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 speaks of the ‘Responsible Person’; the Fire Safety (Scotland) Regulations 2006 use various terms referred to mainly as the ‘duty holder’; and the Fire & Rescue Services (Northern Ireland) Order 2006 and the Fire Safety Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2010 use the title of ‘Appropriate Person’.
Whatever the term used and wherever your location, if you are an employer or have control over a premises or activities that take place on company premises, you hold the responsibility under fire safety legislation.
Is Your Supplier Certificated?
As the responsible person for fire safety on premises, it is vital to ensure any subcontractors that you are using are competent. The majority of people outside the fire industry will not have had the appropriate training to enable them to identify the competency and correct knowledge required to carry out this work. However, there are industry specific certification schemes within the fire sector which offer purchasers confidence and reassurance in the ability of companies and individuals who they wish to employ to carry out work on their behalf.
Whether employing people to carry out installation and servicing of fire equipment or to provide a fire risk assessment, there are relevant certifications for each type of work. The available schemes are written and administered by a spectrum of different bodies for a variety of different services, but all efficiently show that an independent audit has been carried out to assess technical capability, as well as the fire company’s quality management system.
Evidence of certification can be obtained directly from any subcontractor. However, it is important to also contact the provider or certifying body (often via their website) to check that it is genuine and up-to-date.
Fire Risk Assessments
There are three UKAS accredited Fire Risk Assessment schemes: Warrington FRACS, International Fire Consultants Certification (IFCC) and BAFE SP205. As opposed to the other two, BAFE delivers its scheme via three certification bodies, giving the fire risk assessment companies a choice of five competing suppliers, therefore controlling price whilst quality is maintained by UKAS.
Fire Safety Management
PAS 7 is, essentially, a performance code for fire safety management. Premises can be certificated to this Publicly Available Specification for Fire Risk Management Systems via a UKAS accredited third party certification body, such as SGS or BSI. A PAS 7 audit would remove the need for premises to undergo a fire brigade inspection, as the premise’s owner/operator whose fire safety management was certificated to PAS 7 would have undergone a far deeper audit than that of a fire officer’s.
What's Your Evacuation Strategy?
If you hear the alarm sound from your fire detection system, what do you do? Evacuate? Whilst in smaller premises, for example in retail, the plan of evacuating everybody is probably correct, but that won’t work in a more complex site such as a hospital. If you’re in surgery in the middle of performing an operation do you drop everything the moment the alarm sounds? Of course not.
And that is where an evacuation strategy becomes important. When the fire service arrives it’s their job to put out the fire, not to evacuate people. That’s your job. You need to have a well-planned and rehearsed evacuation strategy to ensure everyone gets out alive in the event of a real fire.
Reduce False Alarm Incidences
Fire detection systems are designed to detect fire-like phenomena, so every alarm sounding may not be indicative of an actual fire. Fire Rescue Services are changing their response to automatic fire alarms and in many cases won’t attend unless a fire is confirmed. Find out what the policy is for your local Fire Rescue Service, and if you manage multiple sites, find out for each location as policies differ for each area.
Consider implementing an investigation time before the signal is transmitted. Look at the type of detection you use and modify it to your situation – for example, if a detector is placed close to a toaster in the staff kitchen then modify the situation. Advice on managing false alarms can be found on the FIA’s website. Any changes you make which has the potential to increase risk should be discussed with all interested parties – e.g. your Fire Rescue Service.
So what else can you do to reduce the chance of fire or unwanted false alarms? If any maintenance work is being carried out make sure that any hot work is managed on a permit system, and if necessary isolate the fire alarm or cover the detectors in that area. This also applies to any work which will create a large amount of dust.
Arson can also be a problem so ensure any areas containing flammables is strictly controlled. Don’t leave waste lying around; ensure it is bagged and stored safely.
If you have multiple sites that overlap Fire and Rescue Authorities you may want to consider a Primary Authority Scheme (PAS). The Government introduced PAS in the mid-2000’s as a partnership scheme based in law with statutory guidelines. It was designed to create business investment in growth by developing confidence that regulators in different local authority areas would not place competing demands on a business which in turn could impose extra financial burdens on it. PAS includes a variety of strands including:
- Assured Advice which would be provided by the regulator to a business and this would be accepted by enforcers of the same regulations
- Inspection Plans would be agreed between the regulator and business so as to co-ordinate inspection activity under an agreed local inspection programme that was risk based
- Enforcement Referral, whereby the partner regulator has the ability to stop proposed Enforcement Action that is not consistent with the Assured Advice
PAS was to be available to any business that operated across more than one local authority area and it was to be applied to the majority of local authority regulatory services. It was extended to include the Fire Safety Order in April 2014.
For more information on managing your fire safety, or to arrange a free site survey contact Assured Fire & Security on 0845 402 3045 or complete your details and we’ll contact you.