Fire safety is everyone’s responsibility and a non-negotiable part of your organisation’s health and safety obligations. Managing your legal requirements is key to protecting your employees and business against fire risk.

Our experts share 10 success factors for your fire safety programme:

1. A fire risk assessment

A fire risk assessment is a legal requirement, so ensure yours is carried out by a competent individual. It is your duty to identify fire hazards across your premises and take appropriate action. In addition, if five or more people work at your location, or your business has a licence under enactment in force, your fire risk assessment needs to be a written record. 

2. Fire warning system maintenance and testing

Whether you use individual smoke alarms or a fully integrated fire alarm system, you must check your alert systems regularly. They’re your first line of defence in a fire, so it’s critical to confirm they’re working effectively. This involves testing all call points and smoke alarms in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions and keeping a record of your checks. 

3. Electrical appliance checks 

Electrical items are among the main causes of fires in businesses and households, with faulty wiring, overloaded extensions and poorly maintained equipment and cables being key sources of danger. 

You can inspect most appliances during your routine fire audits, however complex electrical systems must be checked by a competent person or contractor as part of an ongoing maintenance programme. In these cases, employ an expert to carry out risk-based PAT testing, fixed wire inspections and service inspections of building assets that have an electrical supply.

4. Fire safety training awareness

All staff should receive fire training that highlights fire exits, assembly points, fire signage and emergency procedures. Training can be rolled into induction programmes for new hires and refreshed at suitable intervals for other employees, depending on the level of fire risk within your business.  

5. Trained fire marshals

Competent fire marshals can efficiently promote and manage fire safety throughout your organisation. However, they require more than a general training course to add real value.  

The first step is to define what you expect from your onsite fire marshals. How are they involved with proactive fire safety checks? What are their responsibilities in the event of a fire? What skills and knowledge are required to carry out their duties? Once you’ve created a detailed job description, clearly communicate your fire marshals’ key tasks, and invest in the training they need to fulfil their role.  

6. Fire extinguishers and fire blankets

Using the wrong extinguisher can cause injury or even fuel the spread of a fire, so make your staff aware of the proper use of firefighting equipment. 

There are six classes of fire and a corresponding extinguisher type for each: 

  • Class A fires – combustible materials: caused by flammable solids, such as wood, paper and fabric
  • Class B fires – flammable liquids: such as petrol, turpentine or paint
  • Class C fires – flammable gases: like hydrogen, butane or methane
  • Class D fires – combustible metals: chemicals such as magnesium, aluminium or potassium
  • Electrical fires – electrical equipment: once the electrical item is removed, the fire changes class
  • Class F fires – cooking oils: typically a chip pan fire

No single extinguisher works on all classes of fire, so it’s important to purchase the right type for your site’s specific fire risks. Display signage detailing the class of fire each model should be used on and consider the surrounding fire hazards when positioning extinguishers. 

Fire blankets are used to put out clothing fires and kitchen fires (mainly caused by cooking oil, saucepans, frying pans and waste bins) by cutting the flames’ oxygen supply. Ensure your team learn their correct use as part of their standard awareness training. 

7. A suitable evacuation plan

Every premises must have a fire evacuation plan – a clear, accessible document that sets out what needs to happen in the event of a fire. All colleagues should be aware of the instructions and understand their roles and responsibilities during a critical situation.  

8. Proactive, documented fire drills

Fire drills are a fundamental element of your ongoing fire safety plan. They help save time – and lives – in a real emergency by allowing workers to practise key procedures and memorise their quickest fire escape routes. 

Make certain you document every drill and quickly address any areas for improvement. 

9. Chemical management

Take a detailed inventory of the chemicals across your site and verify you’re using and storing them correctly. Some substances, particularly flammable liquids, require COSHH assessments that stipulate how chemicals should be handled from a fire and safety perspective.

Once you’ve carried out your COSHH assessment, share your findings and actions with the staff who use the chemicals in question. 

10. Internal proactive fire safety audits

To help spot hazards and remedy fire safety threats, carry out a proactive fire safety audit every month. These surveys should: 

  • Assess the condition and use of onsite electrical appliances 
  • Identify build-up of combustible items
  • Check fire exit doors and escape routes for obstructions
  • Confirm firefighting equipment is readily available 
  • Address poor practices and training requirements 

For fire risk assessments, competent person services and expert support on shaping your company’s fire safety programme, contact the Southalls team on 0345 257 4015 or email safetyadvice@southalls.com.