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In an ideal world, preventing fire would be as simple as removing all potential hazards from your sites; in reality, the probability of being able to do so is remote. Whether you need flammable chemicals as part of your production process, or you’re a high tech business with a lot of electrical appliances, there will always be risks. With that in mind, the most effective way to prevent fire is a combination of quality fire safety training, well maintained firefighting equipment and a regularly updated fire risk assessment.
Having staff that are trained to respond in a calm, methodical way in the event of fire can literally be a life saver. Whether they are able to deploy fire extinguishers to stop the fire spreading, or simply able to evacuate the building avoiding injury, providing adequate fire safety training is a legal responsibility for all employers. The consequences for not doing so are severe; breaches of fire safety regulations are punishable by up to two years in prison, and an uncapped fine. There are multiple options when it comes to providing this training – you might opt to have your staff complete the course in house if you have someone suitably qualified to provide the training, or you could look at using an external provider if you have any doubts.
Merely having extinguishers on site is probably not enough to adequately reduce the risk of fire to your business; once you have installed them, it’s crucial that they are adequately maintained, regularly checked visually, and annually serviced by a competent person. You may also wish to consider other provisions such as smoke detectors, sprinkler systems or hoses – if your premises are high risk (for example if your production processes involve extreme heat), it’s possible that hoses could even be a requirement. Whatever equipment you opt for, you will be legally required to have it annually maintained, and you’ll probably require the services of an external Fire Safety Company to do so.
Your Fire Safety Training and the amount (and type) of firefighting equipment that you have on site should all be guided by your fire risk assessment. Getting this right is really the cornerstone of managing the risk from fire to your business, and in the event that you do have a fire it’s the documentation that your insurance company, the Fire Service and the HSE will be most interested in. It’s absolutely critical that you get it right, both to protect yourself and your employees. If you are in any doubt, or you don’t have someone on your team adequately qualified to carry out risk assessments, it’s well worth contacting a professional fire safety company to carry out your initial FSRA. Find out how to complete a fire risk assessment here.
There’s no magic bullet to prevent fire on your premises – but you can effectively reduce the risk and ensure that you give yourself the best chance of survival in the event that the worst does happen.