Every year there are around 25,000 non-residential fires reported in the UK, and the majority of these take place in a workplace environment. It is each employer’s duty to ensure the workplace fire safety of his or her employees, but you also have a duty to yourself, as many businesses never recover from the irreparable damage caused by a blaze.
1. Why Do Fires in the Workplace Occur?
There are many reasons why a fire might break out, but the most common factor is human negligence in spotting potential future dangers. Are you at risk from any of the following hazards in your workplace?
- Faulty electrical equipment – look out for frayed wires, faulty plugs, and overloaded extension sockets. Have you had your equipment PAT tested?
- Waste paper – a pile of old office files or cardboard boxes can ignite in seconds. Are you disposing of your flammable waste efficiently?
- Dust – powder and dust from wood, metal and plastic can cause explosions in poorly ventilated areas. What extraction method are you using?
- Flammable liquids – if you store oils, solvents, or other flammable liquids or vapours on site, have you thought about how and where they are stored?
- Staff habits – where do your employees take smoke breaks? What risks are there in your staff kitchen?
2. How Can I Identify These Risks?
To identify the risks first you must take note of the hazards. A hazard is a piece of equipment or process which could cause harm; anything from a faulty photocopier in an office to an angle grinder in a garage. Once you have identified potentially harmful hazards, you must then assess how likely something could happen, combined with the severity if it does so. You can do this using a Risk Assessment.
3. Do I Really Need a Risk Assessment?
Yes. This will not only help you locate hazards and risks, but also gauge the efficacy of your existing fire precautions and identify those employees most in danger. When assessing fire safety in the workplace, a comprehensive Risk Assessment can be the difference between a minor incident and a major disaster.
4. Who should Conduct Risk Assessment?
Risk assessments must be thorough, competently executed, and regularly maintained. If you aren’t taking on this responsibility then appointing a designated fire warden can also be effective, especially if they are also tasked with enforcing subsequent improvements and maintaining existing fire precautions. Alternatively you can nominate individual workers to conduct assessments of their own workspace, as they can identify specific threats a casual observer may not.
5. What else can I do?
Training your employees in fire safety is essential, and it should be part of your company induction process to give new recruits the knowledge and tools required to respond to a fire. In an emergency one untrained person can put everyone else at risk, so make sure all of your team is on the same page. Holding regular fire drills and designating individual responsibilities to each employee will add to this sense of co-operative vigilance.
6. Is Help Available?
Everyone should feel safe when they go to work, and by working with a professional organisation you will not only give your employees peace of mind, but also the knowledge that you are fulfilling your legal obligations as an employer. Have you enough fire extinguishers? Are your fire exits blocked? Is your alarm system fit for purpose?
We can help answer these questions and provide the right fire safety solutions for your business today. Total Fire Services is one of the North West’s leading providers of workplace fire safety training, comprehensive risk assessments, and extinguisher services. Contact us now for more information.