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The Need For A Fire Safety Consultant In Your Business Or Warehouse

Mar 28, 2008
Under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, it is a legal requirement that all businesses provide 'adequate fire safety training' to all staff. Precisely what 'adequate' means depends on the nature of each business and the fire hazards contained in its buildings. Importantly, the training provided must take account of the findings of the fire risk assessment and the fire safety consultant.

In 2004, Fire Brigades attended over 33,400 fires in commercial premises and costs including lost business earnings were estimated as being in excess of 2.5 pounds billion. Apart from schools, the warehouse and distribution sector accounted for the highest number of fires that cost over 250,000 pounds. If a fire safety consultant had been employed by many of these companies, the devastation could definitely have been lessened.

Warehouses present unique issues. They are often suited to allowing small fires to grow into towering infernos. They tend to have a significant quantity of combustible materials and are often sparsely occupied meaning that an outbreak of fire may go initially unnoticed. Once a fire does take hold, even fire-fighters can do little to contain it, often being hampered by high racking systems. With the utilisation of a fire safety consultant it is possible to minimise these risks, their expert opinion should always be heeded on matters of fire safety.

Good fire safety management in the warehouse is vital. This will ensure that risks are identified and controlled. Good housekeeping will keep combustibles and potential heat sources apart. Adequate fire training at work underpins all risk management. It raises awareness of the likelihood and consequences of ignition and establishes the good practice that all staff should follow. An effective consultant can ensure your members of staff are up to date on all matters of fire safety.

Initially, all staff should receive basic fire safety induction when they join the company. Beyond this, adequate training will deal with emergency procedures; fire prevention measures, what to do on discovering a fire and how to raise the alarm, these are subjects that will be covered by the fire safety consultant. Training in the identification and use of fire extinguishers and other fire fighting equipment should also be provided in line with specific company policy. All of these issues need to relate to the specific workplace in which the employees operate. A 'competent person' should conduct the training.

Where Fire Marshals are appointed, more comprehensive training must be given, the content of which will depend on their exact role. Roles may include helping visitors or disabled people leave the building, checking designated areas to ensure everyone has left, liaising with the Fire and Rescue Service, shutting down vital or dangerous equipment and assisting in routine fire checks and record keeping. Your consultant will be able to help define these job roles.

A good fire consultant will focus on the most common causes of warehouse fires which include arson, electrical faults, smoking materials and hot works. Subsequent training will allow workplace procedures to be followed and potential problems to be spotted early and reported to managers and supervisors. Warehouses often operate on a 24 hours basis and so adequate cover in terms of trained personnel with fire safety responsibilities is vital to achieving efficient fire prevention strategies.

The new regulations emphasise the need for training to be 'verifiable' and training should be repeated on a regular basis. As in any building, a holistic approach to fire safety will ensure that risks in warehouses are dealt with effectively. With the use of an efficient safety consultant it is possible to recognise potential risks early and put in place methods that will keep chances of fire to a minimum.
About the Author
Safety expert Thomas Pretty looks into the importance of using a fire safety consultant to protect your business from the risks of fire.
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