Fire Door Safety Week ran from the 21st to 27th of September and focused on the importance of fire doors stopping the spread of a fire and providing adequate time for the building to be evacuated. This is especially important in places like schools and hospitals, where there are people who can’t remove themselves safely and easily – if a staff member has to move a patient, or a frightened child, they need a safe window of time in which to carry out that task.
Fire doors typically have two ratings, FD30 and FD60, the former providing 30 minutes of effective smoke and fire blocking, while the latter provides this for an hour. In almost every public building the doors between areas and from offices to corridors are fire doors, which are in place to stop the spread of fire should a fire ever break out. Without fire doors what starts as a simple electrical fire in a kitchen area could spread within minutes, but with fire doors in place, the fire should be contained until anyone in the building has safely escaped, without having to go through smoke filled areas, and the fire brigade arrive.
While we’re living through a pandemic there is a tendency to avoid touching things like door handles and keypads, to stop the spread of germs. This can lead to people propping fire doors open so no-one has to touch them. Of course, it’s a laudable aim to reduce the amount of contact people have with high-traffic areas, but it is illegal to prop a fire door open for any purpose. There are systems which allow a fire door to be left open as a matter of course, with an alarm-triggered mechanism which automatically shuts fire doors when the fire alarm sounds. If your premises have a genuine need for fire doors to be left open, then you should invest in this type of system and never leave standard fire doors propped open.
It’s a good idea to provide refresher training on fire safety in the workplace, ideally once a year. This training should cover the procedure for staff if a fire is discovered, the types of fire extinguishers that are in the building; together with what type of fire they should be used for. The training should also cover the different types of fire door and fire escape. At least one person should be designated as the fire safety officer. It is their responsibility to ensure everyone is out of the building in the event of a fire, as well as providing the fire service with the details of anyone they suspect may still inside the premises. They should perform a headcount when everyone is at the assembly point and then ensure that no-one is missing. For this reason it is advisable to ask staff to sign in and out of the building, or better yet, use an access control system to automate this process and generate a record of who is in the building at any given time.
If you’re concerned about whether or not your staff taking fire safety seriously, set them a small homework task. Ask your staff to spend half an hour at their homes checking their fire alarms, looking for potential fire risks and establishing escape routes from multiple parts of the house that would be passable in a fire. This will bring the topic of fire safety out of the workplace and into their homes, which will lend it much more importance. They may not care too much whether the office goes up in flames, but they definitely don’t want their house to burn down, so by shifting the focus you can make fire safety a relevant issue to everyone.
You can also invest in third party fire safety training, or contact your local fire brigade to see if they are able to run a short session for your staff at your premises. Fire brigades provide a lot of education and support for fire safety so do avail yourself of this service and keep your staff and premises safe from fire.