The best business advice, opinion, news and expertise in Greater Manchester and further afield.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Friday Guest Blog

Stephanie Littler from St John Ambulance, North-West, explains how to improve fire safety and keep arsonists at bay without spending too much money.

In these challenging economic times employers are having to make savings where they can. Sometimes health and safety costs can seem onerous. However not all good fire safety practices are costly. Below are some inexpensive, impactful fire safety tips which can be implemented immediately at the office to protect your business and employees from the devastating effects of fire.
Some of these include:

1. Prevent fires:

a. Turn off computers at night – to avoid the risk of an ‘electrical’ fire
b. Avoid overloading sockets. Adopt the ‘one plug, one socket’ rule; if this is not possible use extension leads instead of plug adapters.

c. Good housekeeping – ensure the bins inside and outside are not overflowing and paper is not stored by heat sources and electrical sockets
d. Close doors and windows when offices are not occupied to help prevent fires from spreading
e. In this cold and wet weather ensure staff don’t dry their clothes over portable or convector heaters
f. Provide information, instruction and staff training in fire safety and evacuation – so as the team understands what the fire hazards are in your organisation and generally, know what they can do to prevent fires and what to do in the event of a fire.
g. Supervision – after the training ensure staff do not go back to their old ways by checking they are continuing to behave ‘safely’.
h. Reduce the number of false alarms through good communication and supervision of outside contractors. Statistics show that the risk of fire and a false alarm can increase when contractors are on your premises – for example, they can do work which releases particles and dust which then triggers the fire sensors.
i. Ensure you have the legally required number of fire marshals. The four hour St John Ambulance Fire Marshal course is approved by the Institute of Fire Engineers. Many of the trainers delivering this course have actual firefighting experience.
j. Conduct fire drills every year, or preferably more, for each shift – to ensure all staff know how to react if there’s a fire and to identify any problems with your emergency plan.
k. Arson. Over 43% of all fires in the UK are now believed to be caused by arson. Alarmingly, 40% of businesses affected by arson never recover.
i. Deny the arsonist fuel - arsonists can set the contents of bins on fire and so keep waste in secured containers away from buildings and fences and ensure waste is collected regularly.
ii. Keep intruders out. Make it hard for an arsonist to enter your building through not leaving windows and doors open and a system of staff routinely and politely challenging visitors on to your premises

2. It can take only three minutes for a fire to become fierce and devastating. To ensure a safe evacuation you should have beforehand:

a. kept fire exit routes sterile – free from boxes and other items which people could trip over and which would add fuel to a fire
b. not put paper on noticeboards in the fire escape route. This paper could fuel the fire and prevent people safely exiting the building.
c. not locked fire exit doors
d. placed firefighting equipment on the escape route preferably by the fire exits – to help ensure a safe exit
e. Downloaded a free fire safety guide from the CLG website, if you’ve not done so already.

The list above is not exhaustive and your fire risk assessment, which should be reviewed regularly, will identify priority areas and suitable control measures.

Visit for your free fire marshal calculator, further fire safety advice and to book delegates on to the St John Ambulance Fire Marshal course.

With St John Ambulance Fire Marshal training you can be the difference between a life lost and a life saved.

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