Businesses of all types and across all industries are required by law to provide a safe environment for their staff, visitors, and customers. This includes formulating and implementing a robust fire safety plan. Read on for our top tips on creating a fire-safe environment in your business.
Fire Safety Tips Step by Step
For fires that are not yet out of control, you and your staff might be able to deal with the problem with an extinguisher. These should only be used if there is a reasonable likelihood of it making a difference and actually stifling the flames – if not, then you need to get out and call the emergency services to deal with it.
Make sure that your extinguishers are the right type for the location (don’t use water-based extinguishers on kitchen fires for example, as these will typically be oil or electricity fires). Train your staff in the correct use of extinguishers in different situations and on different fire types, and ensure that the extinguishers are full and within their expiry date.
You need to have a reasonable evacuation strategy. Think about how this will work for each of your employees individually as well as in a group – it is not enough to simply say that everyone goes out of the nearest door; how will staff with mobility impairments get out? Will there be a cram of people trying to get through one small bottleneck hallway and door? What if your main evacuation route is on fire – do you have a backup plan?
Don’t forget when you are drawing up your plan that you will not be able to (or certainly should not) use any lifts. So, if you are particularly high up, bear in mind that you have a lot of stairs ahead of you and some of your staff may struggle. A great way of helping wheelchair users, disabled people, injured or unconscious staff is by keeping at least one evacuation chair on site.
These are a sort of wheelchair/stretcher hybrid that can be used to help people downstairs and out of the building safely when they cannot manage it themselves. Bear in mind that you may not have time to shuttle back and forth in the event of an emergency, so you may need multiple evacuation chairs for different staff members in different locations.
Of course, unless they can hear an alarm, no one knows that they need to evacuate the premises. These should be tested frequently, as should your evacuation plan (a full fire safety drill every month or two is generally sufficient).
Alarms need to be loud, clearly distinct from other background or day-to-day noises and there should be enough alarm trigger points dotted around the site that it does not take too much time to find one and set it off.
Often overlooked as part of a full fire safety strategy, signage can make a real difference. You can use a well-placed sign to point the direction to alarm triggers, extinguisher equipment, exit points and to give instructions on how to open doors in an emergency (‘Push Bar to Open’, for example). Safety signs for fire hazards are a simple and cost-effective way of improving your site safety, and should absolutely be part of your fire safety arsenal.
Naturally, the best way of improving fire safety at your site is through prevention. Make sure that particularly hazardous areas are clearly signed and kept secure if appropriate. Keep fuels and oils away from high voltage electrical equipment and in a ventilated space.
Make sure that waste is dealt with correctly and that you are not stockpiling flammable items like wood or paper near possible sources of ignition. Finally, make sure that your staff smoking area is a safe distance away from your main buildings, and that your employees only ever smoke in these shelters/spaces.