In England and Wales the ”general fire precautions” which are the main thrust of the new Regulatory Reform (fire safety) Order: 2005 imposes numerous requirements on the responsible person with respect to the provision of information and training of employees. The most fundamental requirement is proper instruction and training of employees as part of their Company induction. This is a requirement of Article 21, which also requires that re-training is given if existing employees are exposed to changed or increased risks.
Initial training should be given as part of any induction course for new employees. If this is not within a short time of joining the company, new employees should be given basic instruction concerning escape routes, fire procedures, fire alarm signals, etc on the day they begin work in the building. At the very least, they should initially be given a tour of all escape routes that do not form part of the normal access routes. If employees do not attend a formal induction course, they should be given instruction on fire matters as soon as possible after joining the company. Instruction should be based on written material, which is given to the employee, but should also comprise verbal instruction. It is also possible to provide computer-based learning packages, particularly in large organisations, which can incorporate tests to evaluate learning outcomes. Fire safety leaflets are not sufficient as the instructions should include specific safeguards the occupied building.
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The Fire Safety Order requires any training programme to address:
- The precautions necessary for the protection of the employee and other relevant persons
- Be updated to encompass any new or changed risk
- Be provided in a manner appropriate to the risk identified by the risk assessment Training must take place during working hours
- Training must also be repeated periodically “where appropriate” refresher training is good practice as history shows that employees often do not remember fire procedures and fire precautions years are induction.
As a guide fire safety training can include:
- How to summon the fire brigade.
- How to warn others of the fire including the operation of the fire warning apparatus.
- The location and use of escape routes.
- The evacuation precedures in the event of fire
- The procedure for assisting visitors or members of the public from the workplace.
- The location of the fire assembly point.
- The location of all fire equipment
- How to use the fire equipment provided (if the employee has agreed to be a designated fire warden)
The “responsible person” should note that it is not sufficient merely to give a short token outline of the fire safety and evacuation procedures. Article 19 of the Order requires that the responsible person provide employees with comprehensible and relevant information on risks and necessary general fire precautions identified by the fire risk assessment. It should also be made clear which employees are nominated to assist with evacuation and those trained to use fire-fighting equipment such as fire extinguishers and escape ladders
If dangerous substances, such as flammable or explosive materials, or oxidizing agents are present in the workplace, employees must be informed of the names of these substances, their risks, any related legislative requirements and any relevant findings and recommendations identified in the fire risk assessment. Employees must also be given access to any relevant safety data sheets and made aware of any special procedures in the event of fire.
Children Before employing a child (under the age of 16) the child’s parent must be provided with all relevant information on the risks to the child identified by the risk assessment, the necessary general fire precautions arising from that assessment and any risks notified to the responsible person by other occupiers sharing the premises.
Non Employees The duty to provide information under the Fire Safety Order do not relate solely to the responsible persons own employees. Relevant information must also be given to outside employers (eg sub-contractors) and their employees who work in the premises. Under article 20 of the order, the outside employer must be given information about risks to his employees, the necessary general fire precautions and the persons nominated to assist with the evacuation.
Responsible Person To the extent appropriate, these requirements are imposed on the “responsible person” who could be the owner or employer and on any other person having control of the premises such as landlords or managing agents. Identical requirements apply to Scotland and will soon apply to Northern Ireland.