Fire Evacuation Procedures in the Workplace

Fire Safety By Matthew Coombes

A fire in the workplace can be devastating. Recently, a fire at a business in Kidderminster (one town over from our Stourbridge offices) has shown the scale of devastation that a fire can cause. In just a few hours the entire unit was reduced to a wreck. If it wasn’t for effective actions taken by the fire service to control the fire and prevent it from spreading, the business next door would have been lost too.

The loss of this workplace in the run up to Christmas will no doubt have a significant and negative effect on all of those that worked there, and potentially their families. Thankfully, the BBC have reported that no one required medical treatment.

This is the harsh reality of a workplace fire. A large portion of businesses never re-open after a fire, and during a fire there is a serious risk of injury and loss of life.

A fire evacuation procedure is essential to making sure that everyone gets out of harms way in a timely and effective manner.

Our Fire Evacuation Procedure

Our organisation is an office-based workplace set across multiple floors. Because of this, our fire evacuation procedure is “one out all out”. This means that if the alarm is raised, all persons in the building need to head out of the building immediately and reach the fire assembly point as soon as possible.

This makes our fire evacuation plan for staff very simple, upon hearing the fire alarm:

  1. Stop whatever you are doing
  2. Leave the building by the nearest fire exit
  3. Head to the assembly point
  4. Stay at the assembly point until you are told to move, leave or that it is safe to re-enter the building by the fire department

In addition to this, the fire marshals will sweep their respective floors, ensure that everyone is out, and collect the staff and visitor registers, and the fire log book before they head to the final exit point.

Where it is safe to do so, they are instructed to shut off the main gas intake valve by the final exit door when they are leaving the building.

This plan works for us because the work that we do is low risk, the structure of the building means that it’s our best plan, and the plan works for those who have been identified as at higher risk in a fire within our organisation.

Your fire procedure

Each business has its own risks related to the types of work carried out on site and the people that work there (or visit). It is because of this that there is no set fire evacuation plan that you should follow. It should be unique to your workplace, and tailored to include the specific risks that are present.

The only way to know what your fire evacuation plan should include, is for a competent person to conduct a full fire safety risk assessment of your site, then to create a plan that takes into consideration the risks identified.

If you haven’t done this, and don’t have a fire evacuation plan in place, first of all, you need to. Secondly, ask yourself this essential question: “Do all workers, visitors and contractors know what to do in the event of a fire?”

It should be part of your fire evacuation strategy that you have made sure that everyone knows what to do in the event of a fire. If no one knows where to go, what the alarm sounds like or the fastest way out of the building it can cause panic, cost valuable escape time, and sometimes people won’t take the alarm seriously until it is too late.

Staff

Ask yourself, do staff in different areas, or on different floors know what to do in the event of a fire?

All staff should have been told about the fire evacuation policy and what they are expected to do as part of their induction onto the site. Everyone working on your site should have an awareness of what fire is, and what to do in a fire and this should then be reinforced with weekly alarm testing, 6 monthly fire evacuation drills and 6 monthly fire safety training refreshers.

Visitors

When someone visits your site, they are under your care. This means that if there is a fire, it is your responsibility to ensure that they are not at risk. Know who is visiting your site and where they are, have a plan to get them out, and making sure that they’re aware of the fastest way to get to safety.

Contractors

The same applies to those that you have contracted to do work on your site. They are still your responsibility on your site, even though they may have an employer or employ themselves.

In many situations constrictors are at more risk than visitors. A visitor is often on site to speak to someone or see something, and as such, they will often be accompanied by a member of staff. Whereas once a contractor has reached a place that they are working, they will often be left to their own devices.

Contractors are particularly at risk while they are working because they may be in an unused room, working at height, or unsupervised. This can mean that they get forgotten about or not included in the evacuation plan, and they may even not be aware that there is a need to evacuate.


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