Health and safety is paramount in every workplace and fire safety is just one incredibly important aspect of this. No matter what the nature of your workplace is, it’s your responsibility as an employer to make sure that each and every member of staff in your workplace receives proper fire training – especially since, with over 300 workplace fires occurring per week across 2016/17, workplace fires might be a lot more common than you think.
However, whilst fire safety training is incredibly important, it needs to be effective, too. To ensure that the training your staff have received has been taken on board properly and to give you the reassurance that, in the event of a workplace fire, fire safety procedures would be followed efficiently, there are some very important questions your staff should know the answers to.
Here are five questions that every employer needs to ask their staff about fire safety in the workplace.
Where Are The Fire Alarm Call Points?
In the event that a member of your team discovers a fire in the workplace, it’s crucial that they’re able to raise the alarm quickly to allow enough time for everyone to evacuate the building safely. To make sure this happens, every member of staff needs to know where the fire alarm call points are throughout the building.
It’s important to check that staff aren’t just aware of the nearest call point to the central hub of your working area, but to every other area they might find themselves visiting during their working day. For example, where are the nearest call points to the toilets? Where is the closest call point from the kitchen? The stationary cupboard?
Make a clear list of each fire alarm call point in your workplace, their location in the building and which rooms they are closest to, and make sure that all staff are able to remember them.
Where Is Your Nearest Fire Exit?
It’s unlikely that your workplace has just one fire exit, so all staff should be aware of the nearest fire exit in relation to wherever they may be at a time the alarm is raised.
Again, one of the most effective ways to do this is create some form of resource for your team to look at and refer back to. Mark out the nearest fire exits to your main working area, cafeteria or kitchen, bathroom, etc., give a copy to all team members and display a copy in a commonly visited area.
After all, if all staff head for the same fire exit during a fire, no matter where they may be in the building at the time the alarm is raised, you could find your evacuation procedure slowing down and even leading to casualties.
You should also make sure that every staff member is mindful of not blocking the fire exits in any way, with boxes, rubbish or furniture items. They should always be clear and ready to open.
What Is The Evacuation Procedure?
It’s important to make sure that your staff are aware of what your workplace evacuation procedure is, from the moment the alarm is raised to the moment they are allowed back into the building.
The best way to do this is to look very carefully at the plan you have in place and see where it can be improved. Do you have elected fire marshals, staff who are in charge of retrieving first aid kits and evacuation chairs and staff who are in charge of doing a roll call of the team once they’ve left the building? Is there a particular place where all staff should go to stand – an area of the nearest car park, etc.?
After you’ve built a clear and easy-to-remember plan for your evacuation process, relay this to your team and make sure that they’re able to remember what to do in the event of a fire. You should also rehearse the procedure with them every so often through fire drills and test evacuations – this should be done at least every three months.
Where Are The Fire Extinguishers?
In the event of a small fire, your staff should know how many fire extinguishers there are in the building and where they are placed.
As an employer, you are responsible for ensuring that the fire extinguishers are strategically placed so that they are where they will be the most useful – for instance, not in an area where a fire is likely to break out, but close enough to that area for a staff member to retrieve them. You should also make sure you’re checking often that your fire extinguishers are in date and safe to use.
When – And How – Should A Staff Member Use A Fire Extinguisher?
It’s crucial to make sure that your staff don’t simply know where the fire extinguishers are, but how to use them too.
There are, of course, different types of fire extinguishers depending on the type of fire they are used to put out. If you have multiple kinds of fire extinguisher in your workplace, make sure that your staff members are well aware which kind of fire extinguisher is used in accordance with which type of fire – dry powder for use on electrical fires, CO2 on class B flammable liquids, etc.
It’s also important that your staff know that they should only use a fire extinguisher if they feel confident and competent enough to do so – otherwise, they should simply raise the alarm and evacuate.
Asking these questions to your staff will allow you to gauge just how effective your fire training has been, create useful resources and will allow you to further improve your fire training procedures. Making sure that your team are confidently able to answer these questions will leave you with the peace of mind that your workplace can cope diligently in the event that a fire does ever break out in the building – and could, in turn, help to save lives.