Good management of fire safety in your premises is essential to ensure that any fire safety matters that arise are always effectively addressed. In small premises this can be achieved by the manager or owner responsible for maintaining and planning fire safety in conjunction with general health and safety.
In larger premises, it is good practice for a senior manager to have overall responsibility for fire safety. It may be appropriate for this responsibility to be placed with the person designated with overall responsibility for health and safety.
An organisation’s fire safety policy should be flexible enough to allow modification. It should be recognised that fire safety operates at all levels within an organisation and therefore, those responsible for fire safety should be able to develop, where necessary, a local action plan for their premises.
The organisation’s policy should be set out in writing and may cover such things as:
Who will hold the responsibility for fire safety at board level;
- Who will be the responsible person for each of their premises (this will be the person who has overall control, which would usually be the manager);
- The arrangement whereby those responsible for fire safety will, where necessary, nominate in writing specific people to carry out particular tasks if there is a fire.
- Arrangements to monitor and check that individual persons responsible for fire safety are meeting the requirements of the fire safety law.
You should have a plan of action to bring together all the features you have evaluated and noted from your fire risk assessment so that you can logically plan what needs to be done. It should not be confused with the emergency plan, which is a statement of what you will do if there is a fire.
The plan of action should include what you intend to do to reduce the hazards and risks you have identified and to implement the necessary protection measures. You will need to prioritise these actions to ensure that any findings which identify people in immediate danger are dealt with straight away, e.g. unlocking fire exits. In other cases where people are not in immediate danger but action is still necessary, it may be acceptable to plan this over a period of time.
Before admitting the public to your premises you need to ensure that all of your fire safety provisions are in place and in working order, or, if not, that alternative arrangements are in place. Constant checks are needed while the public are present, and again after they have left. Detailed recommendations are given in BS 5588-12.52
Installation, testing and maintenance
New fire precautions should be installed by a competent person. You must keep any existing equipment, devices or facilities that are provided in your premises for the safety of people, such as fire alarms, fire extinguishers, lighting, signs, fire exits and fire doors, in effective working order and maintain fire separating elements and the prevention of smoke into escape routes. 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. Where contractors are used, third party certification is one method where a reasonable assurance of quality of work and competence can be achieved
- Where necessary, are escape routes and exits, the locations of firefighting equipment and emergency fire telephones indicated by appropriate signs?
- Have you provided notices, such as those giving information on how to operate security devices on exit doors, those indicating doors enclosing fire hazards that must be kept shut and fire action notices for staff and other people?
- Are you maintaining all the necessary signs and notices so that they continue to be correct, legible and understood?
- Are you maintaining signs that you have provided for the information of the fire and rescue service, such as those indicating the location of water suppression stop valves and the storage of hazardous substances?
The following are examples of checks and tests that should be carried out. The examples of testing and maintenance given are not intended to be prescriptive and other testing regimes may be appropriate.
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.
Six-monthly tests and checks
A competent person should test and maintain the fire-detection and warning system.
Annual tests and checks
The emergency lighting and all firefighting equipment, fire alarms and other installed systems should be tested and maintained by a competent person. All structural fire protection and elements of fire compartmentation should be inspected and any remedial action carried out.
You will find it of benefit to keep a log book of all maintenance and testing.
Fire safety training
You must provide adequate fire safety training for your staff. The type of training should be based on the particular features of your premises and should:
- Take account of the findings of the fire risk assessment;
- Explain your emergency procedures;
- Take account of the work activity and explain the duties and responsibilities of staff;
- Take place during normal working hours and be repeated periodically where appropriate;
- Be easily understandable by your staff and other people who may be present;
- Be tested by fire drills.
In small premises this may be no more than showing new staff the fire exits and giving basic training on what to do if there is a fire. In larger premises, such as a supermarket with a high staff turnover and many shift patterns, the organisation of fire safety training will need to be planned.
Your staff training should include the following:
- What to do on discovering a fire;
- How to raise the alarm and what happens then;
- What to do upon hearing the fire alarm;
- The procedures for alerting members of the public and visitors including, where appropriate, directing them to exits;
- The arrangements for calling the fire and rescue service;
- The evacuation procedures for everyone in your office or shop to reach an assembly point at a place of total safety;
- The location and, when appropriate, the use of firefighting equipment;
- The location of escape routes, especially those not in regular use;
- How to open all emergency exit doors;
- The importance of keeping fire doors closed to prevent the spread of fire, heat and smoke;
- Where appropriate, how to stop machines and processes and isolate power supplies in the event of a fire;
- The reason for not using lifts (except those specifically installed or nominated, following a suitable fire risk assessment, for the evacuation of people with a disability);
- The safe use of and risks from storing or working with highly flammable and
- explosive substances; and
- The importance of general fire safety, which includes good housekeeping.
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.