Fire safety inspections are important as they assist the employer and employees to be prepared and act safely should a fire breakout in their workplace.
The topics covered in this blog will be fire safety inspections, fire risk assessments and how to protect everyone in the workplace.
Understanding Fire Safety Regulations
Our occupational health and safety legislation requires an employer to provide training for their employees in order for them to be able to carry out fire safety duties, inspections of firefighting equipment to make sure they are ready should the need arise, and conduct fire risk assessments so that they are able to put control measure in place before a fire breaks out.
The role of a fire safety inspection is to assist in reducing accidents caused by fire. The measures include those that are intended to prevent the starting of a fire, as well as those that are used to limit / control the development and effects of a fire after it starts, i.e. fire extinguishers.
Developing a Fire Safety Inspection Checklist
The components of an effective fire safety inspection checklist include the following;
- ensure that the pressure within the cylinder is in green.
- check the cylinder hose and ensure there are no cracks or damage.
- make sure the operating label has not faded and is still readable.
- annual service label date has not expired.
- monthly inspection is conducted and recorded.
People who can assist with tailoring the checklist to your workplace are the trained fire wardens as well as employees working on site. After a fire warden has received training, they get a better understating of fire as well as the effects it may have on them or the workplace.
Best practices for conducting inspections are:
- set the mandate of the inspection: supervisors need to give clear instructions to the inspection team.
- inspections must be conducted by trained competent employees who understand the subject.
- set the goals of the inspections: goals and objectives play a crucial role in getting the desired results out of a regulatory inspection.
- carry out the inspection using transparent procedures.
- explain what was found and what the next steps will be.
- after highlighting the key issues and problems, and preparing the recommendations, the results need to be finalised.
- follow up inspections are important to ensure that major problems are corrected.
Identifying and Managing Fire Hazards
Common fire hazards in the workplace are:
- faulty electronics
- flammable and combustible material
- human error
These potential fire hazards need to be identified and assessed. The ignition source and the source of fuel also need to be identified.
Who are the various people that would be at risk? Employees on the premises; contractors who are working in an area; visitors; people in surrounding buildings could also be at risk; vulnerable people like the elderly, disabled, pregnant or children.
Once you have identified the risks, decide on the precautions.
Evaluate the risk posed of a fire starting and evaluate the risk fire poses to people in the workplace.
Remove or reduce the risk of fire to people in order to protect any person who may be on or around the premises.
Record your findings and implement them. Record any major findings and actions you have decided to take; discuss and plan with other responsible people; prepare your emergency evacuation plan; inform all relevant people who will be affected by decisions; provide training where needed.
Review the risk assessment regularly and where necessary. Identify hazards not adequately controlled and implement changes as required.
Strategies for mitigating fire risks include the following:
- An electrical safety and electrical compliance certificate.
- Control measures and containers for ignition sources, such as discarded cigarettes, radiant heat, and welding can be implemented.
- There should be regular inspections and recording of high-risk areas, such as waste collection points, flammable material storage areas, kitchens, and bulk stores.
- Regular servicing and maintenance of existing control systems, firefighting equipment, sprinkler systems.
- Sending staff on firefighting training.
- Housekeeping checklists.
- Staff induction regarding fire prevention and good housekeeping.
Conducting Effective Fire Safety Inspections
The importance of consistent and frequent inspections helps to prevent incidents, injuries, and illnesses. Through a critical examination of the workplace, inspections help to identify and record hazards for corrective action.
An effective fire inspection is conducted by knowing exactly what to look for, so after attending a firefighting course the trained fire warden will be able to check the workplace, starting from one end to the other, checking fire extinguishers as well as the fire exits.
Addressing identified hazards and improving fire safety in the workplace can be done by awareness of fire hazards or through toolbox talks so that the employer gets buy in from all employees and the workplace can be safe.
In summary, having a safe workplace will minimise the possibility of a fire starting and all fuel ignition sources will be kept to a minimum. Fire exits must always be kept clear. Fire equipment must be serviced according to the manufacturer as well as fire regulations and fire evacuation drills must be conducted regularly.