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Fire Safety Training Requirements
The importance of fire safety training is commonly underestimated. Whilst significant resources are often ploughed into fire safety systems, it is often noted that many building occupiers do not have an adequate understanding of the building and what facilities are in place to prevent the occurrence of fire / fire spread, as well as the importance of other features such as the means of escape design.
It must be noted that there should be a minimum of two levels of fire safety training provided, depending on the responsibility of individuals. A standard fire safety training package should be delivered to all staff. Training beyond this minimum requirement will depend upon the size and use of the building, the number of occupants, along with other factors.
The standard fire safety package should be a bespoke package, which the building users can then relate to. Experience indicates that generic fire safety training is sometimes seen as a ‘tick box’ exercise, whereas occupants tend to become more involved and aware when the training / advice is directed to them and their environment directly. Simple matters such as telling people to keep fire doors closed (in a generic package) will be far less effective than telling people which doors are fire doors and why? The majority of people, know that fire doors need to be shut, but when the importance of this (in a bespoke package) can be communicated, the effectiveness is far greater. For example, if occupants are given the knowledge that a certain fire door is in place to protect the escape route for themselves / colleagues, it can focus the mind and provide reasoning to such provisions.
Additional fire safety training should be given to any persons that are required to undertake a specific role. This can range from Fire Wardens / Marshals, Health & Safety Manager, Building / Facilities Management, Fire Safety Manager etc and the roles will be heavily dependent on the organisation / number of occupants etc. The training provided to these persons must be to a greater level to ensure they understand all fire safety provisions, including the justification for their provision and the legislative requirements placed upon them. Whilst they do not need to be Fire Engineers, they must have sufficient knowledge to ensure they know the relevance of fire safety precautions. This knowledge is paramount in certain situations such as contractors undertaking works within a building, for example knowing which walls can be compromised by service penetrations with no remedial attention and which walls are required to prevent the passage of fire/smoke, thus requiring appropriate fire stopping. Similarly, should any alteration works be undertaken, such as modifying a space, e.g. from open plan to cellular design. A number of elements within fire safety precautions are critical but are not always obvious to the ‘untrained eye’, hence the need for training to this level. Having a level of knowledge will ensure that decisions can be made as well as ensuring a level of understanding that will lead to further advice being sought to ensure the correct decision. This decision making process is fundamental, as there is two common ways an incorrect decision is found out. Either enforcement, whereby relevant authorities inspect the building and find deficiencies which can lead to breaches in legislation or when a fire occurs and the building does not achieve the required fire safety design objectives, which can have catastrophic results, as well as legislative implications.
The responsibilities for training staff is not always clear. Often contract staff, agency staff or support staff are not directly employed. However, they still require a level of fire safety training. The responsibility for this training can be via in-house training or can be a requirement of the operative’s employer. A clear agreement and understanding must be in place.
Fire safety training provides substantial benefits for a relatively small expenditure in monetary and time terms. The ‘human element’ is commonly a part in the failings from which fires can start and develop. Some very simple steps undertaken by building occupants can have a significant effect on the prevention of fire and the effects of fire, should it occur.
If you would like to know more – or would like to arrange an appointment with one of our senior fire safety advisers – simply call Peter Gyere on 020 8668 8663.