Although infrequent, fire brigade strikes happen from time to time. In autumn 2013, due to a disagreement over pensions, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) in England and Wales organised and conducted several strikes. While the government works with local fire and rescue authorities during strikes to help ensure that appropriate contingency plans are in place to provide alternative fire safety arrangements, such as reduced response cover with volunteer firefighters, nonunionised fire crews and private contractors, these contingency plans will not replace or replicate normal fire brigade duties.
Because of this, whenever firefighters are on strike, your business will be more susceptible to fire risks during an emergency. The reduced emergency cover implemented during a strike may cause assistance to take longer than usual to reach you during an emergency, and the help you receive may not be as effective. However, you can help protect your business from fire risk by following a few recommendations from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE):
- Review your current fire risk assessment
- Check your fire detection systems
- Make sure escape plans are in place and that employees know them
- Avoid arson risks, such as leaving rubbish around the workplace.
Before a fire brigade strike, make sure you review your fire risk assessment, check fire detection systems, ensure escape plans are in place and avoid arson risks
Review Your Fire Risk Assessment
Employers in England and Wales are required by the Fire Safety Order to carry out and regularly review fire risk assessments of the premises. This means that employers must identify fire hazards, identify people at risk, and remove or reduce the risks. When reviewing your fire risk assessment, consider:
- Sources of ignition, such as naked flames, heaters and highly flammable materials
- Fire fighting equipment, such as portable fire extinguishers
- The needs of vulnerable people, such as the elderly, youths or those with disabilities
- Suitable fire safety signs and emergency lighting
- Staff training and programmes, such as a no smoking policy in the workplace
Check Your Fire Detection Systems
Make sure that your fire-detection and warning system works and is fully functional. Based on the needs of your workplace, systems can range from a shouted warning to a full electrical detection and warning system. Perform regular tests to ensure all components are working properly. Also be sure to check and service your smoke alarms, manual fire alarms, sprinkler systems and portable fire extinguishers to ensure they are all in good working order.
Ensure Escape Plans Are in Place
Review your fire escape plans and make sure all of your employees know escape procedures and evacuation routes. You should ensure your fire escape plan has:
- A clear passageway to all escape routes (keep all stairways , corridors and areas near fire exits clear of obstructions)
- Clearly marked escape routes that are as short and direct as possible
- Enough exits and routes for all people on the premises to escape
- Emergency doors and fire escapes that open easily and automatic fire doors that close correctly
- Emergency lighting where needed
- A safe meeting point for all employees
- Special arrangements for people with mobility needs
Also make sure to review your business continuity plans to make sure that if anything does happen, your business will be back up and running as soon as possible.
Avoid Arson Risks
Potential arsonists and criminals will also be aware of the dates and times of any FBU strikes, so make sure you do all you can to deter them. This can include:
- Ensuring that any security alarms, CCTV or any other intruder-deterring systems are fully functional and operational.
- Removing and not allowing any waste or rubbish to accumulate on the premises or next to any buildings. Arrange to have refuse collected on a regular basis by a local authority or contractor.
- Conducting a perimeter check for any unauthorised access point to your premises.
Consider additional security during the strike if your business is at high risk for arson. Make sure you consider the implications and risks associated with reduced emergency response cover during a strike. Help protect your business and employees from a fire emergency by providing appropriate supplementary measures and arrangements to prevent potential major accidents and minimise their consequences.
If you require high quality risk management from the industry experts, call Bollington Risk Management today on 01625 854300 or click here for full details on our comprehensive service.