Managing Fire Safety

Created on: 27 Jul 2023

It is important that there is management commitment to fire safety and that a culture of fire safety is maintained. Managers should ensure that there is a fire safety policy, emergency fire action plan, fire safety and training, fire drill, maintenance of procedures, systems and equipment and recording of information.

Fire Instructions and Fire Drills

Employers must ensure that their employees are familiar with the action to be taken in the event of fire and in most cases this will mean regular training and fire drills.

The frequency of fire drills and training periods will normally be included in the fire risk assessment, and the following records should be kept:

  1. date and duration of the instruction or exercise;
  2. name of the person/s giving the instruction and taking part; and
  3. the nature of the instruction, training or drill.

Notices should be prominently displayed indicating the action to be taken on discovering a fire or hearing the alarm.

Instruction and training generally should provide for the following:

  • the action to be taken upon discovering a fire;
  • the action to be taken upon hearing the fire alarm;
  • raising the alarm, including the location of alarm call points, internal fire alarm telephones and alarm indicator panels;
  • the correct method of calling the fire brigade;
  • the location and use of fire fighting equipment;
  • knowledge of the escape routes;
  • appreciation of the importance of fire doors and of the need to close all doors at the time of a fire and on hearing the fire alarm;
  • stopping machines and processes and isolating power supplies where appropriate; and
  • evacuation of the building.

Fire drills should be held at least once a year but preferably once a term. In some cases the drill should be unannounced.

The person in charge of the drill and designated observers should make note of any inappropriate actions (eg collection of personal belongings), communication difficulties, problems with access routes and any difficulties experienced by people with disabilities.

Following the drill remedial action should be taken to ensure problems are resolved. Training should also cover use of fire extinguishers. Not all extinguishers are suitable for all types of fire (eg water should not be used on electrical fires or burning liquids), so training should include the correct choice and use of extinguishers.

Fire extinguishers all have a red body with a colour coded label/band for identification. The types of extinguishers are listed below:

140 Foam (cream label/band) - low expansion foam is suitable for flammable liquid fires, and high expansion foam is especially useful in inaccessible areas, eg cable tunnels and basements.

Carbon dioxide (black label/band) - suitable for hazardous plant, eg electrical equipment and computer areas. Power should be disconnected, if possible, prior to use.

Dry Powder (blue label/band) - suitable for flammable liquids, electrical equipment or situations where water damage must be kept to a minimum.

Water (red body) - suitable for Class A fires only, ie fires involving solid materials such as wood, paper or textiles.

It is important that extinguishers are fixed in position on brackets or shelves, with the handle of the extinguisher no more than 1.1m from the floor. They should be checked at least monthly and inspected by trained personnel yearly.

The date of the service should be recorded on the extinguisher. Fire Blankets should be used where there are containers of oil or fat and there is a potential for fire.

Fire Procedures and the Disabled

Special consideration must be given to the needs of disabled staff in fire situations. Some aspects for consideration are:

  • identification of everyone who may need special help to get out;
  • allocation of responsibility to specific staff to help disabled staff in emergency situations;
  • consideration of the best escape routes;
  • developing procedures to enable lifts to be used where possible; and
  • procedures for disabled persons to summon assistance in emergencies.

Note: Lifts should not be used as a means of escape in the event of a fire. If the power fails due to effects of fire the lift could stop between floors, trapping occupants in what may become a chimney for fire and smoke.