How Can You Safely Address Fire Hazards?

The first step to safely addressing any fire hazards is to be aware that you have them, what they are and how they have been identified. You should have a fire risk assessment in place under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and this should have been carried out by a ‘competent person’.

Once this has been completed and you are aware of your fire hazards, the fire risk assessment report should have identified ways to deal with these hazards by either removing them completely or by reducing them to acceptable levels.

Let’s take a simple example. You have become aware that you are using portable heaters underneath desks in your office close to combustible materials and this constitutes a fire hazard. Firstly, the reason should this is a fire hazard is you are using a potential ignition source (portable heater) close to combustible materials in an enclosed space. One of the first rules of fire safety is to separate ignition sources from any potential flammable material.

So what can you do? Well to remove the hazard completely you could stop using portable heaters all together. But if that is not desirable or practical then you should at least move the portable heaters from under your desk and use them in an open space away from any combustible materials, thus addressing the fire hazard or controlling it rather than completely removing it.

Let’s look at a slightly more complicated example – you have identified a long dead-end area of escape within your office premises and this route is not protected by fire doors or automatic fire detection. So what can you do? This in itself is not actually a fire hazard as you are not necessarily more likely to have a fire along a dead-end escape route than anywhere else in your building but what it does do is potentially put you and any other occupiers at risk should a fire occur.

You have a series of options. Firstly you could remove the risk completely by prohibiting anybody from occupying this area. Assuming that is not practical then you could protect the route in fire resisting construction (e.g. fire doors and glazing) and/or with automatic fire detection in the offices and corridor. In extreme cases, you may have to add sprinkler protection in this area to compensate for the excessive travel distance. These are all possibilities that a competent fire risk assessor would be able to identify and suggest.

Another example would be if you had builders on site using blow torches and welding equipment – how would you address this hazard? What you should do is ensure they are working under the Construction Design and Management Regulations CDM 2015 and Construction (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulation 1996, which requires that they have a risk assessment in place and in this case a hot permit to work which would ensure all equipment would be being used safely at all times.

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