Learning about fire safety in the workplace is often part of the employee onboarding experience. It’s usually at the end of a long morning of hearing about the company policies, rules and regulations. By the time staff fire awareness comes up, new joiners are looking at their watches, wondering when lunch is happening.
How to remain safe and what to do in the event of a fire is really not a priority for them, but it should be. After all, a fire can break out at any time. Fire Safety inspectors could arrive unannounced. And, failure to inform and refresh your team’s knowledge about what to do is a breach of your duties as an employer.
Understanding fire classifications, the fire triangle, extinguisher types and the role of fire wardens reduces the likelihood of workplace fires. If a fire does start, you can stop it from escalating into an epic workplace disaster.
Let’s examine why it’s important, what employees should know and why fire safety awareness benefits everyone on-site.
Why You Should Care
Fire safety breaches can land you in hot water. The Co-operative Group was fined over £200,000 after pleading guilty to serious fire safety breaches at a store in Southampton.
An inspection of the premises exposed six fire safety breaches under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order. The breaches included failure to maintain emergency exit doors, failure to regularly test the fire alarm system and failure to provide the store manager with suitable and sufficient fire instruction and training.
A robust fire safety management system and proper staff training could have saved the Co-op a lot of money. Could your business survive a fine for fire safety breaches or a workplace fire?
Understanding Fire Safety in the Workplace
When you think of workplace fire safety, what comes to mind?
Swishing a fire extinguisher around in a company car park? Watching a grainy 1980s fire safety video of a fire warden using a fire blanket to put out a fire engulfing an office chair? Or filing out of the office with your mug of coffee in hand, heading to the fire assembly point?
Workplace fire safety is so much more than this. Each year approximately 22,000 fires occur in workplaces. The cost of a workplace fire can run into £100,000s, and this is before fines for fire safety breaches. Unauthorised smoking, use of defective electrical equipment, hazardous work tasks that involve flammable agents and a general lack of awareness can all cause workplace fires.
Employee fire safety awareness happens when they do a fire safety course. Training is vital to prevent fires and keep everyone safe, including employees, contractors, customers and the public.
What Should Fire Awareness Training Cover?
General fire safety awareness training informs all employees on their part in fire safety. The benefit is that everyone knows what to do, so they don’t panic. The training should include:
The Fire Triangle
To ignite a fire there must be a source of heat, oxygen and fuel. If one of these elements is removed, there is no fire. For example, smothering a fire with a fire blanket cuts the oxygen supply, or dousing with water removes the heat source. This simple model is known as the Fire Triangle.
Fire Classifications and Fire Extinguishers
Depending on the workplace, various fire extinguishers might be necessary for different fire classes.
The different classes of fire are:
- Class A – Solids – paper, wood, rubber, cloth and plastic
- Class B – Liquids – combustible liquids such as petrol, paint, oil
- Class C – Gases – flammable gases like methane, butane and propane
- Class D – Metals – such as titanium and aluminium
- Class E – Electrical Fires
- Class F – Cooking Fats & Oils
Types of Fire Extinguishers
The outer casing of fire extinguishers is usually red. The coloured label on them denotes what type of fire they can extinguish:
Water (Red) – suitable for wood, paper, fabric
Foam (Cream) – ideal for liquids, paper, wood
Powder (Blue) – suitable for flammable gas, liquid, oil, chemicals, electricals
CO2 (Black) – used for combustible liquids, electricals
Wet chemical (Yellow) – suitable for cooking oils and fats
To prevent additional hazards, you must know what extinguisher is necessary to extinguish which type of fire. One wouldn’t want to use a water extinguisher on a fire that starts from an overloaded electrical plug socket.
Who Should Tackle a Workplace Fire?
If a fire breaks out in your workplace, the best thing to do is leave immediately via the nearest exit and make your way to the assembly point. Employees who aren’t trained to do so shouldn’t attempt to extinguish a fire. Their job is to get out and stay out until it’s safe to go back inside.
The role of a fire warden is to get people out safely, raise the alarm and wait for the fire emergency services. They are also trained to assess the situation and decide if it’s a small fire they can safely tackle. They’ll use on-site firefighting equipment, such as a fire blanket or fire extinguisher, to extinguish the fire.
Fire extinguishers are straightforward to use. Trained fire wardens will be familiar with the acronym PASS:
P – Pull
A – Aim
S – Squeeze
S – Sweep
How to Raise Awareness
There are some cost-effective ways to raise staff fire awareness levels:
- Good fire safety training
- Frequent refresher sessions
- Engaging infographics posted up on noticeboards and the intranet
- Keeping workplace fire safety on the team meetings agenda
- Showcasing your fire wardens
Ignite Employee Awareness with Fire Safety Training
Fire safety awareness and vigilance are essential safety requirements in every business. It’s elementary to ensure your workforce is adequately trained and legally compliant. Our fire safety awareness course, assured by iiRSM, covers the content in this blog and more. You can access it online. We also offer training for fire extinguishers and fire risk assessments.