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A business has a legal duty, to ensure that any risk from fire or the effects of fire are kept by to an absolute minimum. In order to find out what risks there are, you would need to do a formal risk assessment.
This risk assessment is carried out by the responsible person within the business. What they have to do is to look at any of the possible risks and hazards, look at how they would deal with those hazards, what they would have to do in an emergency, how to evacuate the building, what sort of review plans they will need and finally what equipment they’ll need
The first part of this risk assessment is to identify the hazards. Hazards will vary from one workplace to another. You will look at each individual hazard and see what you need to do about it. One hazard could be electrical fires, this could be dealt with by good housekeeping, having all appliances tested, to make sure they are functioning correctly.
You need to make sure that all electrical systems, like computer systems, heating systems, air conditioning, or any factory type electrical equipment is well maintained and serviced.
Another potential hazard is smoking. Most of the places in the UK is not a problem as designated smoking areas are kept away from buildings and people are not permitted to smoke. This is a good example of how a potential problem, i.e fire from smoking can then be eliminated.
The risk of fire from flammable liquids or gases can be reduced by correct storage, also to make sure they are not near or associated with anything that could possibly cause a fire.
If there are possible vapours, we wouldn’t want to use anything that causes a spark, which could ignite the vapours. Chemicals and fuels could need to be stored in an explosion-proof container.
Hazards can be reduced by good housekeeping. This would be making sure bins are emptied and that they are sufficient in size. Also make sure any equipment that is left on site, or deliveries that have come into a building are kept away from fire exits or any possible flammable source.
Other hazards could be the building itself. Modern buildings have to follow very strict planning regulations. These are all designed to make sure that buildings are built in a safe manner, that fire can be contained if it did break out and evacuation routes are clear and easy to find.
Older buildings may be a problem, with an older building we may need to make maintenance changes like installation of firewalls, different alarms systems, sprinkler systems and fire doors. All these things can help to reduce the risk in the event of a fire.
We need to assess the risk level, this will apply to the business itself or to the individuals that work there. Depending on what is happening in the workplace, the risk on the employees will vary. Not only are we looking at the risks of the equipment but we are looking at the risks of the individuals of who work there.
Maybe someone is working close to electrical equipment could be at higher risk of someone working in an office. The other things we need to look at are the people themselves. We need to look at their age, their ability to move, maybe they are disabled.
If you’re working in a school or educational establishment, children may be less able to respond to an alarm.
So what we do, is look at the whole picture, not just of the factory, the office or the school.
Once we have evaluated all this, we can then reduce the risk as much as possible.
We need to look at fire hazards and what could cause a fire, things that can cause spark and material that has been left around that can fuel a fire. Once we have identified all of these things we need to see how we can reduce this risk to avoid fire breaking out in the first place.
We also need to look if there was a fire, is there something there that could fuel that fire and maybe make the situation a lot worse.
We also need to take action to protect your premises and people from fire. This can be fire alarms, fire extinguishers, evacuation, training and lots of other things we cover in this course. Next thing we need to do is to record, plan and train. Good records are very important, so every time we are doing risk assessments, we’re analysing what has happened, or if there has been an emergency, we need to record exactly what has happened so we can analyse this and ensure that we can reduce risk in future.
We need to plan exactly what we need to do in the event in an emergency. Evacuation routes, how people activate the alarm system, who will phone the emergency services should something happen, what to do if the emergency exits are blocked due to a fire on one side of the building and how are we going to get out on the other side.
The final element here is to train. All this planning, risk assessing and equipment is no good unless all the staff and people who visit the building know exactly what to do. Regular training is vital and also we need to make sure anyone who visits the premises knows exactly what to do in the event of an emergency.
We also need to review, what this means is we need to look back at our risk assessments to make sure they are all up to date. Has anything changed since the last risk assessment, maybe another production line has been installed, changes to the way work are carried out, changes to the access of the building or the layout of the building?
All these things will mean that we need to review risk assessments, to make sure that any changes that have happened within the workplace are recorded and also we have taken any necessary action to ensure that everybody can get out of the building in an emergency.