Karen Trigg, South East business development manager of Allegion UK, urges businesses to invest time and money into training for staff involved with fire safety. This is to avoid costly, or even deadly, situations.
Keeping your training up-to-date regarding fire safety and fire door hardware comes with a whole host of benefits for your business.
Doing so will mean you will reduce the risk of facing unnecessary fines and a potentially damaged reputation.
Yet, new research from law firm Hugh James revealed that almost one in five Brits (16 percent) work for a company where not a single fire drill has been carried out in the last twelve months.
Even more worrying is that the poll of 2,000 full and part-time employees found that almost half 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.
However, if you neglect fire safety training for employees, history will reveal that you may be treading a dangerous path.
Prevention is better than cure
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 2000 people in 2016, showing that 54 percent of people 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 broke out.
Take Oxford Street’s New Look store in London. The retail premises caught fire back in 2009 and criticism arose in light of its lack of staff training.
One of the customers, Joanne Weaver, spoke of her experience: “Staff within the shop did not seem to have a plan to evacuate people. They went from no cause for alarm, to panic.” Joanne noted that the 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 charged 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 your 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 worst case scenario.
What’s more, 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 your fire door obsolete. Fire doors need to remain closed to effectively prevent the spread of fire and smoke. Keeping a fire door open could put your business at risk legally, should it be judged that a person’s life be at risk as a result.
Additionally, keeping your emergency escape routes clear is crucial. Fire doors with a blocked passage are dangerous and uneccessary.
It’s essential practice to make sure staff members understand correct use of all fire doors within your establishment to maintain maximum safety in the event of a fire.
Correctly installed hardware amidst a changing landscape
Training on fire safety hardware doesn’t end in-house. Checking that installers have been correctly trained is 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. MLA ensures regular checks with approved companies, such as vetting, maintenance inspections and locksmith qualifications.
As a result companies which have been “MLA approved” appear more reliable, trustworthy, qualified and professional.
By being accurately trained on the 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 incident in June 2017, the Care Quality Commission issued a letter identifying some of the main fire issues as:
- Fire exits and fire doors wedged open
- Escape routes used as storage areas
- Low awareness among residents of what to do in emergency situations
- No evidence of fire drills having been undertaken recently
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 stay in compliance with regulations.
Ensure that your hardware is not only installed correctly, but that your staff understand what to check for when inspecting your fire door hardware.