Fire Safety Management
Fire poses a substantial risk to any business. An outbreak of fire will in many cases render a business unable to continue operating. Fire has the potential to cause significant structural damage to premises, destruction of equipment and in worst-case scenarios, injury and loss of life.
Workplace Fire Safety
Employers must assess their workplaces to ensure the necessary protections are in place to reduce fire-related risks and to ensure their business is compliant with Fire Safety Legislation. Section 18(2) of the Fire Services Acts, 1981 and 2003 places a duty on the person having control over a premises to:-
(a) take all reasonable measures to guard against the outbreak of fire on the premises,
(b) provide reasonable fire safety measures for the premises and prepare and provide appropriate fire safety procedures for ensuring the safety of persons on the premises,
(c) ensure that the fire safety measures and procedures referred to in paragraph (b) are applied at all times, and
(d) ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, the safety of persons on the premises in the event of an outbreak of fire whether such outbreak has occurred or not.
Failure in this duty is an offence under the Act and may result in prosecution.
So what must employers do to safeguard against the risk of fire? Taking the following steps will minimise the risk of workplace fire incidents and non-compliance with fire safety legislation:-
- Undertake a fire safety programme and appoint persons responsible for fire safety duties
- Ensure good housekeeping practices at all times
- Ensure that fire protection equipment is in good working order
- Ensure employees receive appropriate training
- Have appropriate emergency procedures in place
- Keep a Fire Safety Register (pdf).
Employers should ensure that any adaptations or modifications to their workplaces intended to mitigate the risk of Covid 19 transmission do not adversely impact on fire safety and are fully compliant with the Building Regulations and the Building Control Regulations.
Examples of what to watch out for:-
- Wedging of fire doors to reduce the amount of surfaces being touched. Note: fire doors should only be held open by approved electromagnetic devices connected to the fire detection and alarm system.
- Altering the internal layout/pedestrian flow to allow for social distancing
- Storing combustible/hazardous material, e.g. hand sanitiser, in protected escape routes
It is essential that fire safety management of your premises is given the highest priority regardless of any restrictions in place due to Covid 19. Please adhere to Fire Safety Advice for Business Owners (pdf).
Maintenance of Fire Protection Equipment
Fire protection equipment must be properly maintained. The continuing safety and protection of staff and occupants relies on fully functioning fire protection equipment such as fire detection & alarm systems, emergency lighting systems and fire extinguishing equipment.
Fire Alarm & Emergency Lighting Systems
Maintenance, inspection and testing of fire detection and alarm systems and emergency lighting systems should be in accordance with the relevant Irish Standard. Daily, weekly, quarterly and annual inspections and testing should be carried out by competent persons and relevant certification retained.
Maintenance of Escape Routes
Occupants of a building cannot be evacuated quickly and safely if escape routes are obstructed or exits are locked. It is an essential element of fire safety management that all escape routes are kept free from obstruction and safe from smoke and fire. This can only be achieved if escape routes are not obstructed, if fire-resistant doors are kept closed (or automatic closers linked to a fire alarm are maintained) and if exit doors are functioning properly at all times. Escape routes should be inspected on a regular basis. Any obstructions on the escape route should be removed immediately and steps taken to ensure no further obstruction is allowed to occur.
Staff and Management Training
All managers and staff, including temporary and part-time workers, should receive training and instruction in the following:
- Fire prevention duties
- Emergency procedures, including fire and evacuation drills
- The location of fire alarm call points and the fire alarm panel
- The use of fire-fighting equipment
- The role of fire doors and the importance of not wedging or propping them open.
- Arrangements for calling and assisting the fire brigade
Fire Safety Register
A simple and effective method of keeping on top of tests, services, inspections and training is to keep a Fire Safety Register (pdf). This is designed to provide a record of the measures you have taken to ensure that the fire safety arrangements in the premises are properly maintained and remain effective.
Click on the following link for Fire Safety Guidance in a Variety of Settings.