Fire safety is of paramount importance for any workplace and is an ongoing requirement. Fire risk assessments should take place regularly, especially if there has been a change to the environment. Knowing the optimal fire escape routes and ensuring everybody else knows how to access them is an important part of any fire risk assessment. So, what exactly is needed in a fire safety policy and just how often should you check your fire escape route?
A fire escape route is the quickest path that can be taken to exit a building in case of a fire. It should be designed to cover the shortest distance possible so that people can get to a fire escape quickly, and it should be organised so that there are no obvious obstructions that could hinder people finding safety.
A fire safety plan lays out what will happen in the event of a fire before the emergency services arrive. Therefore, any fire escape route should be one that everyone can use to get to safety without help from fire or ambulance services.
We all know how quickly fire can spread. Evacuating people as quickly as possible is the priority when dealing with a fire. In some cases, for example, in a single storey building with one access point, the fire escape route may be fairly obvious and easy to get to. However, many places of work are not constructed so simply, and not having a fire safety plan in place could mean people do not know how to safely get to a fire escape. These crucial minutes spent trying to find the best fire escape route could be very costly.
A fire escape plan will take into account a number of factors, many of which you may not consider when in an emergency situation:
A fire safety policy will be shared by all employees so that they are prepared in the event of a fire. There will need to be a responsible person who manages the fire safety policy and who ensures the points outlined in the policy are put into action.
For the main entry and exit points into and out of a building, you do not need to have fire escape signs. These access points are obvious and are used by people daily. Fire escape signs must be installed for less obvious fire escape routes or for areas that might be trickier to navigate. This could include offices with multiple corridors and varying floor plans throughout. Having clearly signposted fire escape routes will help people evacuate independently as quickly as possible.
There are rules and regulations around fire escape signs that govern where they should be positioned and how high they should be. A fire safety policy will cover this level of detail and an experienced health and safety professional can make sure this is right.
As a fire escape route must be the shortest route for a person to reach safety, there are certain guidelines to follow to ensure this is the case. A fire safety policy should adhere to these guidelines when establishing the fire escape routes. The travel distance to the nearest fire escape route will change according to how many fire exits are available. The shortest distance to travel should be 18 metres if there is only one fire exit. This increases to 45 metres where there are two or more exits. However, these distances are reduced if there is a higher risk of the fire spreading, for example in older buildings. This is why a fire safety policy must contain a comprehensive breakdown of all possible fire escape routes and adhere to current government legislation.
As well as listing how many fire escape signs are needed and the best escape routes, a fire safety policy will need a fire escape plan. One or more people will need to be listed as those who will carry out the plan in an emergency. Other things to include in the plan may be:
Organising this information and nominating a responsible person, or persons, will reduce any panic or confusion and help to reduce the impact of a fire.
Fire training should be included in staff inductions when they first join a company. A fire safety policy should list the information to be given to new starters, including a guided demonstration of where the fire escape routes are.
It is a legal requirement to have at least one person be a designated fire officer or fire marshal in larger offices. This person may undertake additional fire safety training. The fire safety policy may even include details of who is responsible for health and safety training at work so that any fire training courses can be arranged and refreshed as needed.
A thorough fire safety policy will have a breakdown of how many fire extinguishers are required in a building. Each floor of a building should have at least two class A fire extinguishers. The size of the fire extinguishers will vary according to the size of the building. They are usually available in 3 litre, 6 litre or 9 litre capacities.
There are other types of fire extinguishers that you may be required to have depending on the type of premises or business you have. These include CO2 extinguishers or wet chemical extinguishers. You may need a fire risk assessment to determine which extinguishers you need and in which sizes.
A fire escape plan is an evolving document that will need to be updated regularly. The points above should all be reassessed and any changes made. This process will include checking all current fire escape routes. The general rule is to check the fire escape policy every 12 months. In the case of any significant changes, such as new walls being put up, an influx of new staff or new office equipment blocking a route, there should be an immediate effort made to update the fire escape policy and routes.
When it comes to checking fire escape routes, this can be done on a daily basis. A quick glance over to check they are not being blocked and have a completely clear passage will help to maintain proper health and safety for all staff. Weekly checks could include checking torches are working, that fire escape doors are easy to open and that new starters know the fire escape plan. While monthly efforts can be made to look at fire extinguishers, check any expiry dates and make sure fire exit signs are secure.
Putting a fire safety policy in place is not only a legal requirement, but is also essential for keeping staff safe. There are many areas to cover in a fire risk assessment; the more detailed your risk assessment, the safer your fire safety policy will be.
Rhino Safety can complete your fire risk assessment and provide you with a detailed document that includes everything you need to ensure a robust and well-planned fire safety policy. Get in touch to find out how.