Construction Health and Safety Consultancy and CDM Adviser Services

Time for another quick review of your fire safety obligations
Posted by David Cant on July 11, 2014

Members of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) have again voted to strike over pay and pensions. A series of co-ordinated walkouts will mean that commercial and residential properties may not be properly protected due to a lack of staff and resources.

As a result, businesses are being asked to design and implement contingency plans to protect themselves during the walkouts.

The construction industry should already have many of the required safeguards in place due to the high standards required of site operators. These strikes do however provide the perfect opportunity to revisit some of these obligations to protect employees and the general public.

Reduce sources of ignition

Your business has a duty of care to ensure that the potential for fire is reduced. This means limiting the use of naked flames and welding equipment when not required. A complete halt to flame-related operations may be advisable during periods when fire brigade cover cannot be guaranteed.

Reduce potential fuel sources

You also have a duty to ensure that flammable materials are kept to a minimum at all times. During the strike periods however, you may wish to adjust operations slightly. Temporarily reducing the amount of LPG stored on site ensures there is less to actually catch fire for instance.

Re-assess emergency provisions

In the event that your site does catch fire, it is essential that you have a plan in place that will allow you to evacuate the premises as quickly and safely as possible. Factors you must consider include:

  • Potential routes of escape. These need to be clearly marked and kept clear at all times. You will also need to ensure that staff have been shown the relevant exits so they can act quickly in the event of an emergency.
  • Evacuation procedures. As well as knowing where the site exit points are, employees need to be carefully briefed in what to do in an emergency. Who is responsible for checking sectors are clear? Under what circumstances should fires be tackled? How will your employees deal with members of the public or other workers operating in the same area?
  • Raising the alarm. As well as triggering the onsite fire alarm system, who do staff need to alert in the event of a blaze?
  • Managing the situation. Who will act as the co-ordinator in the event of an accident? Are they fully up-to-speed with the additional challenges that a fire brigade strike presents?

Risk assessment time

Ultimately fire brigade strikes will mean that your business needs to revisit risk assessments for each site, focusing particularly on dealing with a fire should one break out. Businesses who lack the relevant experience to conduct full risk assessments and site audits should urgently seek professional assistance before the walkouts begin in earnest.

So over to you – how is your business preparing for the strikes? What additional measures are you taking to prevent disaster?


David Cant is a Chartered Safety and Health Practitioner extraordinaire. He has a wealth of Industry experience and is the MD of Veritas Consulting. David also Blogs about Health and Safety here Health and Safety Consultants

His aim is to flavour Health and Safety with integrity, served with a side of humour You can find David on - Twitter and Google also Linkedin

This post has been filed in: Fire Risk Assessments

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