Keeping your training up-to-date regarding fire safety and fire door hardware comes with a whole host of benefits for the business. Doing so will mean that you’ll reduce the risk of the company facing unnecessary fines, a potentially damaged reputation and even situations that might prove to be deadly. Here, Karen Trigg urges businesses to invest time and money into training for all staff involved with fire safety.
Research conducted by law firm Hugh James reveals that almost one-in-five Brits (16%) work for a company where not a single fire drill has been carried out in the last 12 months. Even more worrying is that this poll of 2,000 full and part-time employees found that almost 50% haven’t received workplace training on what to do in the event of a fire.
Clearly, some employers are not taking training as seriously as they should. Of course, employers will have their age-old reasonings. “Training employees is time-consuming and costly,” they’ll suggest, but if they neglect fire safety training for their employees, history tells us that they may well be treading a dangerous path.
Following the motto of ‘prevention is better than cure’ is an adage that often rings true. This is typified by comparethemarket.com’s survey of 2,000 people in 2016, showing that 54% of individuals living in the UK don’t know what they need to do in the event of a fire. That’s over half of the population who would be none the wiser if a fire did break out.
Take Oxford Street’s New Look store in London. The retail premises caught fire back in 2009 and criticism arose in light of the company’s apparent lack of staff training. One of New Look’s customers, namely Joanne Weaver, spoke of her experience. “Staff within the shop didn’t seem to have a plan to evacuate people. They went from no cause for alarm to panic.” Weaver also noted that staff hadn’t indicated there was a problem and no real direction was given in terms of advice or assistance.
The retailer subsequently faced fines amounting to £400,000, a fractured reputation and a building in ruins.
Of course, it’s only speculation, but had the staff received the appropriate fire safety training, New Look may not have been faced with such a large fine. What’s more, the fire itself could have been tackled earlier resulting in less damage to both the building and the store’s reputation.
Starting with fire doors
Another key fire safety issue is ensuring that fire safety hardware is in good working order. Understanding what to check when inspecting fire doors is useful knowledge to retain, helping to prevent a worse case scenario.
Just as threatening to fire safety is the improper use of fire doors. Wedging a fire door open, a particularly common offence made by many, may render that fire door obsolete. Fire doors need to remain closed to effectively prevent the spread of fire and smoke. Keeping a fire door open could place a business in peril from a legal standpoint should it be judged that a person’s life is at risk as a result.
Additionally, keeping your emergency escape routes clear is crucial. Fire doors with a blocked passage are dangerous and unneccessary.
It’s essential practice to make sure staff members understand the correct use of all fire doors within your establishment to maintain maximum safety in the event of a fire episode.
A changing landscape
Training on fire safety hardware doesn’t end in-house. Checking that installers have been correctly trained is also key. Locksmiths installing your hardware also need an acute knowledge on fire safety hardware. Electro-mechanical hardware, intended to be an aid for doors and often installed by locksmiths, can be susceptible to damage and accidents if installed incorrectly.
The Master Locksmiths Association (MLA) seeks to establish a licensing scheme to approve locksmiths. The MLA ensures regular checks with approved companies involving vetting, maintenance inspections and locksmith qualifications. As a result, those companies which have been ‘MLA approved’ appear more reliable, trustworthy, qualified and professional.
By being accurately trained on a given product and its application, and by following appropriate risk assessments, potential hazards can be avoided and controlled.
Time to take action
After the Grenfell Tower blaze in June last year, the Care Quality Commission issued a letter identifying some of the main fire issues as fire exits and fire doors left wedged open, escape routes being used as storage areas, low awareness among residents in terms of what to do in emergency situations and no evidence of fire drills having been undertaken in recent times.
From this, we can take that training within fire safety and fire door hardware should be a requirement. It’s as simple as that. Your business should implement basic fire safety training to decrease the likelihood of accidents both in the event of a fire and in the general work environment.
Furthermore, fire doors need to be regularly serviced and maintained in order for your business to remain compliant with current regulations.
Ensure that your hardware is not only installed correctly, but that your members of staff understand what to check for when inspecting all fire door hardware.
Karen Trigg is South East Business Development Manager at Allegion UK