The LWF Blog
Facilities Management & Fire Safety – Staff Training – Part 11March 14, 2017 12:33 pm
In this fire safety blog series for those who work in Facilities Management, we have been looking at practical tools for use in case of a fire such as fire extinguishers and fire blankets. Today, however, we’re going to look at the greatest asset of any organisation – staff. While the main aim of any fire safety practices and fire protection measures is to protect the occupants of a building, it is essential that those staff are in receipt of fire safety training.
The placement of tools as fire extinguishers or fire hose reels in a building is considered essential practice, but some organisations baulk at the idea of training staff in their use. This can be because of the time and effort required to train all employees or simply because they feel that all building occupants should evacuate safely in a fire situation and not be expected to try to put out the fire.
While occupant safety is paramount and safe evacuation is the primary objective, it is the case that there are reasons why staff training, which includes how to use an extinguisher or other fire-fighting equipment provided, is necessary.
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 states that where it is a requirement, premises should be provided with appropriate fire-fighting equipment, with competent and adequately trained persons to utilise them on site. While this does not mean that an organisation should require a person to stay in the building and fight a fire which has started, it does mean that those persons able to do so must be able to use the equipment as intended, should the need arise.
Most premises fall into the category of needing to have fire-fighting equipment on site and as they are not intended for use by the Fire Service, this obviously means that they are for use by any suitably trained persons on site at the time of a fire. Indeed, to provide extinguishers, for example, but not the relevant training could be seen as negligent in terms of health and safety, as improper use can endanger the user or any other persons nearby.
Additionally, whether given training or not, even if asked to evacuate, it is likely that in the case of a small fire, some people will decide to use the provided extinguishers to try to put out or minimise the fire.
The RR(FS)O does however state that the provision of such equipment is ‘where necessary’ and therefore it is likely that only certain members of staff who are trained in fire safety practices to a high level could be permitted to approach a fire. In this instance, ‘permitted’ is essential as no member of staff can be told they must stay in a building where there is a fire and the training they receive means that they should be able to assess the situation and the fire development status to avoid putting themselves or any colleagues in danger.
In Part 12 of this blog series, we will look at how fire extinguishing appliances should be checked and maintained before we move on to begin discussing fixed fire-fighting systems in buildings. In the meantime, if you have any queries about your own facilities or wish to discuss this blog series, please contact Peter Gyere in the first instance on 0208 668 8663.
Lawrence Webster Forrest is a fire engineering consultancy based in Surrey with over 25 years’ experience, which provides a wide range of consultancy services to professionals involved in the design, development and construction and operation of buildings.