Fire safety in the workplace

Ensure fire safety is not a burning issue for you.

Fire safety in the workplace is one of the most important issues businesses up and down the country need to be on top of. A lacklustre performance in this area can not only cause considerable damage and expense to property, but also potentially put the lives of staff and the public at risk.

As a result, understanding the legal requirements and the simple common sense rules that can offset any risk of a fire hazard is important for everyone. Indeed, figures from the St John’s Ambulance service highlight the fact that 19 people died in workplace fires in the UK in 2010/11.

 

What the law states

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 is the main legislation covering fire safety in the workplace across England and Wales, while companies in Scotland come under the jurisdiction of Part 3 of the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005 and the Fire Safety (Scotland) Regulations 2006.

Each of these legislatory frameworks outline the responsibilities of firms regarding offsetting the risk of fire, with the Department for Communities and Local Government also offering a wealth of information on industry-specific guidelines at its website.

Managing risk responsibly

One of the first things businesses need to remember is to carry out and maintain an up-to-date fire safety risk assessment. This includes outlining the potential causes of fire across all areas of a business, ranging from the use or storage of flammable materials through to workers accidentally knocking over a space heater.

Fire needs three things to start – a source of ignition, fuel to burn and oxygen – as such, it is important sources of ignition and flammable substances are kept apart at all times, while good housekeeping – keeping areas clean and uncluttered – can be equally as important.

Businesses should also consider how to detect fires, with the installation of fire alarms and smoke detectors recommended to alert individuals quickly to any potential danger.

Furthermore, ensuring the correct fire-fighting equipment is easily accessible is also an important factor, as is ensuring these items are regularly maintained and fully charged.

All members of staff should also receive appropriate training in what to do in the event of fire, with regular fire drills and emergency exits and escape routes kept clear of obstacles at all times.

Finally, business bosses should review and update their risk assessments regularly.

Ultimately, appropriate fire safety management boils down to identifying dangerous behaviours or materials and avoiding these risks entirely where possible. Appropriate action must also be taken to minimise the chances of fire breaking out; but if it does, firms need to set out clearly how they will protect their staff from harm.

In case of injury

Fire in the workplace is no laughing matter and individuals who have suffered an injury as a result of improper practices or a lack of responsible planning – be it burns, smoke inhalation or other trauma – might like to consider seeking compensation.

Contacting a legal professional to represent them can be a difficult decision for many, especially when taking on one’s own employer, but doing so could lead to the award of considerable compensation that could help provide much-needed support through the recuperation process.

Chartered legal executive at Hayward Baker Gary Lee notes: “The amount of compensation will obviously depend on the extent of the injuries.”

Although he added that fortunately, this type of case is “very rare”.

Individuals who feel their employer is not taking their fire safety duties seriously should contact their local fire and rescue authorities, as these are the bodies responsible for the enforcement of legislation in this area across most parts of the UK.

However, anyone working in the construction, nuclear energy or ship building and repair sectors must get in touch with the Health & Safety Executive over perceived fire safety issues.

Fire safety in the workplace

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