If you’ve recently received a Fire Risk Assessment document and been baffled by the terminology, this is for you. Here we’re simplifying some of the fire safety jargon which you might have come across and providing some tips on how to implement a safer environment.
Let’s get started.
Regulatory Reform Order (Fire Safety) Order 2005. This is the primary piece of legislation surrounding fire safety. It replaces most fire safety legislation before it with one simple order. It means that any person who has some level of control in premises must take reasonable steps to reduce the risk from fire and make sure people can safely escape in an emergency.
This means balancing the level of risk against the measures needed to control the real risk in terms of money, time or trouble. However, you do not need to take action if it would be grossly disproportionate to the level of risk.
A hazard is anything that may cause harm, e.g. chemicals, electricity, working from ladders, noise etc.
Risk is the chance, high, medium or low, of somebody being harmed by the hazard, and how serious the harm could be.
Significant risks are those that are not trivial in nature and are capable of creating a real risk to health and safety which any reasonable person would appreciate and would take steps to guard against.
What can be considered as ‘insignificant’ will vary from site to site and activity to activity, depending on specific circumstances?
Fire starts when heat (source of ignition) comes into contact with fuel (anything that burns), and oxygen (air). You need to keep sources of ignition and fuel apart.
How could a fire start?
Think about heaters, lighting, naked flames, electrical equipment, hot processes such as welding or grinding, cigarettes, matches and anything else that gets very hot or causes sparks.
What could burn?
Packaging, rubbish and furniture could all burn, just like the more obvious fuels such as petrol, paint, varnish and white spirit. Also, think about wood, paper, plastic, rubber and foam. Do the walls or ceilings have hardboard, chipboard, or polystyrene? Check outside, too.
People at risk
Everyone is at risk if there is a fire. Think whether the risk is greater for some because of when or where they work, such as night staff, or because they’re not familiar with the premises, such as visitors or customers.
Children, the elderly or disabled people are especially vulnerable.
Remove and reduce risk
How can you avoid accidental fires?
Could a source of heat or sparks fall, be knocked or pushed into something that would burn? Could that happen the other way round?
Take action to protect your premises and people from fire.
Keep a record of any fire hazards and what you have done to reduce or remove them. If your premises are small, a record is a good idea.
If you have five or more staff or have a licence then you must keep a record of what you have found and what you have done.
You must have a clear plan of how to prevent fire and how you will keep people safe in case of fire. If you share a building with others, you need to coordinate your plan with them.
You need to make sure your staff know what to do in case of fire, and if necessary, are trained for their roles.
A Fire Warden (or Fire Marshal) is a designated person within an organisation who is given specific responsibilities that help in the management of fire safety and the safety of building occupants in the event of an emergency.
Where the only way in to and out of a room is through another room (access room).
A room through which an inner room is accessed, egress from the inner room will be via the access room only.
Means of Escape (Egress)
The means by which users of the area will leave in an emergency.
GEEP & PEEP
GEEP – General emergency evacuation plan. This plan is devised for all users of the building, it details how and where to escape in an emergency.
Consider employees, public, customers, suppliers and anybody else who might use the area. Think about all possible areas a fire might start and spread. What the safest and quickest means of escape is for each area (it might be a different exit for each area) and what would happen if those means of escape were compromised.
For example what would happen if the lift was out of service, would you use the stairs? What would happen if a member of the public couldn’t use the stairs, do you need an evacuation chair?
PEEP – Personal emergency evacuation plan. This is a specific plan which is developed to secure the safety of an individual who requires safety measures outside of the GEEP. Think about people who may have disabilities and need evacuation chairs or other safety measures, remember that disabilities aren’t always visible and may need to be discussed.
Extract from the Communities and Local Government Guidance Document:
‘The actual distance to be travelled by a person from any point within the floor area to the nearest storey exit or final exit, having regard to the layout of walls, partitions and fixings.’
The ideal situation is when there is more than one escape route from all parts of the premises, although this is not always possible.
- If only one route is available, you may need to make it fire resisting (protected) or install an automatic fire-detection system.
- The distance people need to go to escape (the travel distance) should be as short as possible. The travel distance should be measured from the farthest point in a room to the door to a protected stairway or, if there is no protected stairway, to the final exit from the building.
- If there is only one escape route, the travel distance should not normally be more than 18 metres. This distance should be shorter (12 metres or less) in any parts of the premises where there is a high chance of a fire starting or spreading quickly. The distance can be longer (up to about 25 metres) where the chance of a fire starting or spreading quickly is very low.
- If there is more than one escape route, the travel distance should not normally be more than 45 metres (around 25 metres in areas where the risk of fire is high and about 60 metres in areas where the risk of fire is very low).