So can your domestic burglar alarm be your fire alarm too?

york burglar alarms
York Burglar Alarms

Domestic intruder alarms can integrate fire, smoke and CO detectors ensuring detectors are all connected, can be heard throughout the house and require no batteries.

Many fatalities occur due to homes with no smoke detection or often homes with detectors that have had batteries removed and never replaced. Fire detection integrated to your intruder alarm can solve this problem for ever.

Yorkshire based security company York burglar Alarms are a big advocate of this idea.

You can find out more here [York Burglar Alarms]

DSE Training DVD
A DSE Training DVD or online video is just one of the latest safety training requirements to opt for the training via video option.

In pure economic terms then safety training via video makes sense for UK companies as the comparative price for hands-on training requires much more capital investment.
There is probably little dispute between experts that should money be no object then practical, live training is undoubtedly the best option. However in most UK businesses ‘money no object’ is not the usual financial position.
Giving good health and safety training via a reasonably priced medium that can be used time and time again just makes good financial sense. However it has another distinct advantage – it’s logistically easy to set up and deliver and unlike practical trainers it doesn’t matter how few or many people you are training.
Many people would agree that as long as the training comes with a test of understanding then video training is a very practical solution. The test of understanding is very important without such it is unlikely to be legally accepted as training i.e. playing a DVD to staff without testing them afterwards proves nothing as they may have completely misunderstood the material.
Many subjects are now available as video training e.g. asbestos awareness, manual handling, fire warden, fire extinguisher and now Display Screen Equipment.

Click here to see an example - DSE Training DVD

Too many fire extinguishers
Don’t get me wrong there are many qualified and extremely professional fire-safety engineers across Britain unfortunately though there are also many cowboys. When looking to provide extinguishers for a business it seems to make sense to ask an extinguisher company to tell you what you need. However the employment model for many companies is to pay engineers a very basic wage and a high commission which serves only to incentivise over-specification. It is a point well made in this blog from Harrogate Fire Extinguishers.

The best approach would be to carry out a fire risk assessment first. It is a mandatory requirement anyway so why not have a risk assessment carried out first? The result of the assessment should provide the answers relating to your extinguisher provision i.e. how many, in what positions, numbers and even if you need them at all.

It’s sad to acknowledge that fire safety companies may not be competent or highly incentivised to sell but it’s often the case.  So having an assessment first is one good approach if however you do want approach an extinguisher company then look for third-part approvals such as BAFE, FIA or FPA. Ask if staff are qualified and have undertaken FETA / FIA training and get more than one quotation. Ask how long the company has been in business.

It is extremely important that you have good fire-safety provision but it is not acceptable to be ripped-off in the name of compliance.

Weekly fire tests and evacuation drills for crowded places

As Fire Risk Assessors one of the most common non-compliances with fire safety legislation we find is lack of weekly testing and evacuation drills. This in the average workplace is easy to address and implement swiftly.

However in large buildings that entertain vast numbers of the public (such as hotels or shopping centres) then implementation is not so straight forward. How do you carry out weekly tests and evacuation drills without causing mass panic and economically penalising the business (e.g. if a shopping centre evacuated everybody how many would actually bother to return).

But safety of life must come first and a practicable solution must be sought. Good information and regular, expected regimes of testing would help.

But there are perhaps some tools out there that can help implement systems in public places and crowded spaces, one such example is Alert Innovation’s Shop Alert – Muster Point App which can integrate tests, drills and emergency evacuations.

It is true that regular tests and drills are more challenging in public places but are they not even more important in such an arena?

fire alarm categories keighley, harrogate, leeds, bradfordAll too often business owners realise the requirement to have a fire detection system but then go the wrong way about providing one. Having realised that a system is probably necessary then a popular route is to ask the local electrician to quote for the job. If said electrician is qualified in fire-alarm design that would be absolutely fine but all too often they are not.

Fire alarms should be designed to a specific category. There are two main classes: Category P – Property Protection and Category L – Life Protection. The specific categories are as follows:

Life Protection Categories

L5 – An engineered solution (only very complicated buildings such as shopping centres).

L4 – Manual call-points throughout, sounders throughout and automatic detection on escape routes and stairs.

L3 – As L4 plus automatic detection in rooms leading onto escape routes.

L2 – As L3 plus automatic detection in any other high-risk areas (e.g. a kitchen).

L1 – Manual call-points throughout, sounders throughout and automatic detection throughout.

 

Property Protection Categories

P2 -     Sounders throughout and automatic detection in specified areas.

P2M – Manual call-points throughout, sounders throughout and automatic detection in specified areas.

P1M  – Manual call-points throughout, sounders throughout and automatic detection throughout.

P1   – Sounders throughout and automatic detection throughout.

If you never had any design documentation the category should be ascertained and added to your six-monthly servicing documentation. It would also become clear when carrying out your mandatory fire-risk assessment.

So who chooses the category? Not the designer is the answer. Ultimately the decision on the appropriate category would be ascertained following the results of the fire-risk assessment. Once the category has been chosen then the designer must ensure the design wholly meets the specified category.

Fire warden training - video learning on DVDAn independent survey of fire risk assessors revealed that one of the most common non-compliances was the lack of fire-warden training. The ‘Responsible Person’ within a business must ensure that staff who are designated to assist with fire safety are trained to do so.

Live fire warden / marshal training can be expensive therefore video-based training is a cost effective alternative. The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 requires businesses to provide adequate fire safety training. In reality this means should you designate particular fire safety duties to staff then you must provide training to carry out those duties.

It is estimated that over 60% of UK businesses are not compliant with the latest UK fire Safety Legislation. However ignorance is no plea in a court-of-law. Considering over 70% of businesses that suffer a major fire never recover it is surprising how many businesses have no fire safety training in place.

Merely designating fire-safety roles without providing training can leave a business owner out on a limb.

Live fire warden training can be very costly therefore DVD training is a credible alternative. Also there are online learning alternatives and even downloadable guides, all of which are more acceptable than no provision at all.

Click for an example of a fire warden training DVD

manual handling training like fire safety DVD training
Much UK fire safety legislation revolves around the requirement to train. However what exactly constitutes training is up for debate.

What is clear is that any form of training that provides no test of understanding is unlikely to be accepted as ‘Training" in the eyes of the law.

There are of course many possible delivery methods: hands on, face-to-face, reading guides, video and DVD but without an integrated test they are worthless.

It is of course a balancing act for UK employers to meet all the legislation but not impinge on the company’s profitability through overly costly training requirements.

But fire safety and health and safety in general agree that there should be a test. An example of which is this manual handling training DVD.

Fire Risk Assessors are not the Fire Police
A fire risk assessment is a legal requirement - YES .... However it should not be just another tick in the health and safety box, just another drain on your resources that you could do without ..... NO! 

A fire risk assessment keeps you and your staff safe and protects your business. A well carried out assessment offers you great protection and peace-of-mind. However everybody has to understand the importance of fire-safety planning. All too often risk assessors come across staff who think they are the Fire Police. Many staff think they are towing the company line and give assessors the answer they think they should give rather than just simply the truth. This approach is a waste of everybody's time and money and quite frankly can be dangerous.

Here is an all too typical scenario:

Assessor: "Does your company provide you with fire extinguisher training?"

Staff member: "Yes, absolutely"

Assessor: "Good' so if this computer went on fire which of these extinguishers would you use?"

Staff member: "Ermm... Er....Em..... Foam?"

Fire risk assessors are not the fire authority but they are there to ensure you keep on the right side of that authority. This can only happen if you are open and honest. It doesn't matter where you are now but where you will be after the assessment has been carried out and the significant findings have been applied.

There is one word within the fire safety legislation (RRO 2005) that is particularly significant - 'Responsibility'. Ultimately the business owner / MD is 'The Responsible Person' but responsibility cascades and has legal ramifications.

So if you want to keep safe and legal treat fire risk assessments with the respect they deserve and give helpful, open and honest responses.

Risk assessors are safety consultants and definitely not the Fire Police!

Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order 2005
The fire safety (regulatory reform) order came into force on the 1st of October 2006. The major shift was to place ‘Responsibility’ firmly with the business owner. It is true that English legislation talks about ‘The responsible Person’ but at the end of the day that virtually always turns out to be the business owner.

There are lots of implications and requirements for UK businesses but perhaps the best advice would be to start with the requirement to carry out a fire-risk assessment. If a business has five employees or more it is a legal requirement to carry out and document an assessment.
This is the best place to start as, if carried out correctly, the results will highlight any other areas of fire safety where you may be deficient such as evacuation planning, fire safety training, provision of fire alarms, fire extinguishers, emergency lighting, PAT testing etc.

If you have been delegated some of the responsibility from your boss / business owner it is worth pointing out that they have not shifted the responsibility. Indeed if they have not ensured you are capable of carrying out an assessment (via existing knowledge, training or employing a consultant to help) then they are on rocky ground from a legal perspective.

If your business is relatively uncomplicated and low risk then carrying out your own assessment makes perfect sense. There are fire-risk-assessment government guides for virtually every type of business. However if your building is large and over several floors or you have inherent fire-risks within the business then you may wish to employ the services of a professional.

Too many businesses look at fire-safety requirements as just another tick in the box required to keep the authorities happy; they are far from that. Properly adhered to fire-safety legislation keeps everybody safe and alive and transcends business budget-concerns. Times are tough but cut any area you like except fire-safety. You owe it to you and your staff to have the best fire-safety you can attain.

Fire Safety Order 2005On the 1st of October 2006 the Regulatory Reforms (Fire Safety) Order came into place and repealed a multitude of previous fire-safety legislation. Yet it is estimated that over 60% of UK businesses are not fully compliant under the act. However pointing to a neighbouring business should a fire or a near miss hit you will not help - ignorance is no plea in the British judicial system.
If you are a business owner then the buck stops with you. Not meeting all the fire-safety regulations has been likened to driving a car with no tax (the inference being you’re okay if you don’t get caught) but it’s a poor analogy as rarely does driving with no tax end up with loss of human life.

There are many more questions but can you answer these core questions in the affirmative?

Have you carried out and documented a sufficient fire-risk assessment?

Have you put in place adequate fire-protection measures?

Has your staff received appropriate fire safety training?

Are all the above updated frequently?

There are a number of reasons your business could receive a visit from a fire-officer: someone reported fire-safety concerns regarding your business, randomly picked for an inspection, a fire or a near-miss event. Times are indeed tough but avoiding faire-safety legislation can have perilous consequences.
It doesn’t have to cost the earth, start by taking advantage of our free fire safety resources.