Fire management is the most important health and safety element you will need to deal with as a business operator. No matter where you are or in which country or county you are in.
Its simple - FIRE KILLS. It takes life, possessions, property and leaves charred memories.
I have always said to my colleagues, friends and even more so to my children that if there is one thing you must never underestimate it is nature. When you start messing with nature it will bite back. Earth, Wind (air) and Water are set elements which are encountered in specific and expected locations but Fire is an element which humans have found to be very useful in supporting our survival. Unfortunately these elements also contribute primarily to our mortal end. Fire is also the one element which can grow beyond expectation and probably the one which is the most unstable.
The fire brigade or fire and rescue service will fight and manage a fire situation but that is not what anyone wants. The ideal circumstances are in preventing the fire in the first place and if we all apply this way of operating and educating each other it will prevent a lot of tragedy and loss. It will also keep insurance brokers at bay.
Managing fire has always been of importance all over the world and in the United Kingdom the Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order (RRFSO) combined a lot of fire regulations into one handy volume during 2005. All home nations have a slight different name for it but in effect it serves the same purpose. The nice thing about the RRFSO is that it is organised in very useful articles. What you need to comply with are the Duties in section 2 and this contains Articles 8 to 23 and these 16 Articles will tell you exactly what you need to comply with.
Our fire risk assessments follow the usual 5 steps of risk assessing but you already know that step 4 is to record the fire risk assessment and that step 5 is to review it when required. Steps one, two and three is all about what is the hazard, who may be harmed and what you are doing about it as well as evaluating how bad it can be and what you will do about it. Clearly following the individual articles makes sense as you can demonstrate exactly how you measure up against the articles of the RRFSO. Now, we have all seen fire risk assessments that are two pages long with the front page being an introduction and then there are fire risk assessments as thick as a French dictionary. Getting what you pay for is not always the case but it has to be said that anything less that 10 pages of useful information is not going to help you very much in court. The same can be said of 100 pages of waffle. Stick to the articles and if you want to add some floor plans which tell you where the identified hazards are, then get the extra benefit. If you have small premises the floor plan will be quite valuable in training your staff in the emergency procedures.
Know what you are getting and always make sure that the articles are followed with both a checklist and sensible observations for each article. That is what we do for our customers and the photos we take come in very handy when explaining any issues.
Chris Pieters is a members of the Fire Protection Association and specialise in Fire Safety Support.
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