How To Guides
We are pleased to be able to provide some of the most popular answers to the ‘How To” questions with which we often get asked
- How to carry out a Fire Risk Assessment
Broadly speaking, assessments are conducted in five key steps by a competent person:
- Identify the fire hazards.
- Identify people at risk.
- Evaluate, remove, or reduce the risks.
- Record your findings, prepare an emergency plan, and provide training.
- Review and update the fire risk assessment regularly.
A person is regarded as competent where they have sufficient training and experience or knowledge and other qualities to enable them properly to implement their role.
In the case of simple premises, where the fire risk assessor might, for example, be an employee of the occupier, it is possible that the following attributes of a fire risk assessor might be sufficient in conjunction with a study of suitable guidance documents. Even in such a simple premises, the fire risk assessor will need: –
- An understanding of relevant current best fire safety practices in premises of the type in question.
- An awareness of the limitations of the fire risk assessor’s own experience and knowledge.
- A willingness and ability to supplement existing experience and knowledge, when necessary, by obtaining external help and advice.
If you are in any doubt contact Assessed Risk for some impartial advice.
- How to service a Fire Extinguisher?
There are a few checks that need to be done when you have fire extinguishers sited around your premises. These include the following:
Fire extinguisher maintenance: monthly checks
Your fire extinguisher maintenance schedule should include a monthly inspection.
- Check that all fire extinguishers are visible and unobstructed with clean, legible operating instructions facing outwards.
- Look for signs of damage including corrosion or leakage.
- Ensure locking pins, seals and tamper indicators are in place and undamaged.
- Check the pressure indicators are in the operable range or position.
Annual fire extinguisher servicing
But these checks alone are not sufficient to pick up all potential issues; you also need a full annual service from a competent person. A visit from a fire extinguisher engineer is not only about servicing the equipment itself. While the obvious reason for their visit is to check the extinguishers are working properly, they are actually doing a lot of other vital work too.
For example, they will be looking at the areas where the extinguishers could potentially be used. Are they still sited where they were originally intended to be? Are they fitted correctly on brackets or stands or have they been ‘rehomed’ as a prop to keep doors open? Are they all grouped together to form a single fire point? In some instances, a fire extinguisher might be located where it was originally intended to be – but the building around it or people within it may have changed as new departments have moved in or out and spaces reconfigured. So, the engineer will also be checking that the extinguishers are still suitable given the fire risks the new building layout might now present.
- What do the colours on a Fire Extinguisher mean?
Fire Extinguishers Colours
In the UK, fire extinguishers are red. A band or a circle of a second colour has to cover five to ten percent of the rest of the surface, and this indicated the contents of the extinguisher. Older devices might be completely covered with the whole colour that indicates the contents, but the regulation was changed in 1996.
These are the new colour codes for the band or patch of colour that indicates the contents/medium.
- Red – Water
- Cream – Foam
- Blue – Dry Powder or Class D Powder
- Black – CO2
It might also be helpful to understand which type of fire extinguishers are better for which types of fires.
- Water, Foam & Wet Chemical – Class A: Organic materials like paper or wood
- Powder & Foam – Class B: Flammable liquids like oil or gasoline
- Powder – Class C: Flammable gas
- Class D Powder – Class D: Combustible metal
- CO2 – Class E: Electrical fires
- Wet Chemical – Class F: Cooking oil and fats
- How to test a Fire Alarm?
Testing your fire alarm is a legal duty. Here are the Top 5 To Do’s:
- If your system is being monitored (i.e. has an emergency response set up if the alarm activates), you will need to contact your ARC (Alarm Receiving Centre) to notify them that you will be carrying out this test so they know to put the system “on test” and then to take it “off test” following. Then request a report from your ARC to make sure they received the signal, demonstrating that the connection between them and the alarm system is still operational.
- Do check that the panel has registered the correct zone that had a manual call point activation; this is why it is important to have your building’s zone chart next to your fire alarm panel.
- You must ensure that you keep a written record of each test on site. The best way to do so is to record each test in a logbook. Let us know if you would like us to send you one.
- Your weekly fire alarm test must be carried out during working hours. Even though this could end up being a little disruptive to those in the building at the time, it is important that everyone can hear it from all areas. If the alarm cannot be heard in all areas, this must be reported to your trusted maintenance provider. They should then carry out a decibel survey to ensure that all areas of the building are covered.
- If any faults show up on the panel or there are any issues when testing, do report these to your trusted maintenance provider for immediate investigation.
- How to test Emergency Lighting?
There are 2 options for testing emergency lights. You can do it by using the test key switch and key shown or at the distribution board if it is clearly marked as emergency lighting.
To test the emergency light put the test key into the key switch and just like a light switch click it into test mode. This will simulate the power being cut to the emergency light. Check that all the emergency lights in that area have come on. If they have come on and are working correctly then switch the key back into normal mode. If they have not come on, report this as a fault.
The second option for testing emergency lights is to go to your electrical distribution bored, power supply or trip switches. Look at what circuit is related to lighting and turn it off. This has the same effect as the key switch method. Once you have checked all the emergency lights are working correctly just turn it back on.
There are many different types of emergency lights and different types of emergency lighting test facilities. However most of these different pieces of equipment are generally tested and inspected in a similar way.
- How to check a Fire Door?
There are 5 main tips to get you started with checking fire doors. You should obviously be trained to do this, but the tips below should indicate if you need a professional to do the assessment if there are any faults.
Check for certification
Is there a label or plug on top (or occasionally on the side) of the door to show it is a certificated fire door? You can use the selfie function on your camera phone or a mirror to check. If there is, that’s good news, otherwise report it to whoever is in charge of your building.
Check the gaps
Check the gaps around the top and sides of the door are consistently less than 4mm when closed. You can use a £1 coin to give a feel for scale, this is about 3mm thick. The gap under the door can be slightly larger (up to 8mm is not uncommon), but it does depend on the door – as a rule of thumb, if you can see light under the door, the gap is likely to be too big. It is good news if the door fits the frame and it is not damaged. If not, report it. If the gaps are too big, smoke and fire could travel through the cracks.
Check the seals
Are there any intumescent seals (looks like a plastic insert) around the door or frame, and are they intact with no sign of damage? These seals are usually vital to the fire door’s performance, expanding if in contact with heat to ensure fire (and in some cases smoke) cannot move through the cracks. If not, report it – the door may not be properly maintained and in the intensity of a fire may not protect you long enough.
Check the hinges Are the hinges firmly fixed (three or more of them), with no missing or broken screws? If you see problems, report it – the door is obviously not properly maintained and in the intensity of a fire may not perform and hold back the fire for long enough.
Check the door closes properly
Open the door about halfway, let go and allow it to close by itself. Does it close firmly onto the latch without sticking on the floor or the frame? If not, report it. A fire door only works when it is closed. A fire door is completely useless if it is wedged open or cannot close fully.
- What is DSEAR?
DSEAR stands for the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002.
Dangerous substances can put peoples’ safety at risk from fire, explosion, and corrosion of metal. DSEAR puts duties on employers and the self-employed to protect people from these risks to their safety in the workplace, and to members of the public who may be put at risk by work activity.
- What are Dangerous Substances?
Dangerous substances are any substances used or present at work that could, if not properly controlled, cause harm to people as a result of a fire or explosion or corrosion of metal. They can be found in nearly all workplaces and include such things as solvents, paints, varnishes, flammable gases, such as liquid petroleum gas (LPG), dusts from machining and sanding operations, dusts from foodstuffs, pressurised gases and substances corrosive to metal.
- What does DSEAR require?
- find out what dangerous substances are in their workplace and what the risks are
- put control measures in place to either remove those risks or, where this is not possible, control them
- put controls in place to reduce the effects of any incidents involving dangerous substances
- prepare plans and procedures to deal with accidents, incidents and emergencies involving dangerous substances
- make sure employees are properly informed about and trained to control or deal with the risks from the dangerous substances
- identify and classify areas of the workplace where explosive atmospheres may occur and avoid ignition sources (from unprotected equipment, for example) in those areas
- What is a Fire Log?
A fire log is a way of recording the fire safety checks in your premises. Although there is no legal requirement to use these, there is a legal duty to provide the fire safety check information upon request from the Fire Authority and that is why fire safety logs are used.
Assessed Risk have their own bespoke software for this minimising the impact upon the environment whilst permanently maintaining the information in a safe place.