Fire: Best Practice for Emergency Escape Routes
All businesses occupying premises need to organise their workspaces so there is easy access to escape routes in the event of an emergency, such as a fire. Good, clear signage and exits that employees can reach without encountering obstructions are vital.
It is the employer’s responsibility to ensure the safety of all personnel and to protect equipment and materials as far as possible to prevent damage and further danger.
Fire safety legislation
In the UK, it is a legal requirement that employers put in place certain safeguards against fire and other dangers. These safeguards include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Conducting a fire risk assessment throughout the business premises so potential hazards can be identified and mitigating action steps recorded and understood.
- Putting in place and communicating with all members of staff the emergency procedures for evacuation in the event of fire.
- Ensuring emergency escape routes lead quickly to a place that is safe from harm.
- Using appropriate signage and emergency lighting to guide people escaping from danger.
- Authorising access to areas that may be dangerous due to materials or substances being held there.
- Ensuring dangerous substances are stored appropriately and labelled clearly.
- Maintaining fire fighting equipment in optimum conditions with regular servicing and maintenance checks.
- Officially recording all safety training, including inductions and refresher sessions.
Conducting a detailed and thorough risk assessment is the key to getting fire safety procedures right in a place of work – and indeed the home. Sometimes it can be difficult to know where to start, especially if premises are sizeable and used for several different functions, such as material storage and handling, manufacturing, administration and trading.
A methodical approach is best, so decide which format will be used to record risks and identify ways to prevent or reduce those risks. This could be in physical or electronic form, for example.
Start by examining the following areas:
- Equipment for fire detection and firefighting
- Emergency escape routes
- Procedures for working in dangerous areas
- Plans of action for evacuating buildings in the event of an emergency, particularly when danger is imminent
- Maintenance and servicing of fire detection and firefighting equipment
- Employee information
- Employee training
The simplest way to assess fire risk is to ask basic questions regarding fire safety on your premises and build a checklist from there.
What to look for
When checking equipment, make sure the type of fire deterrent installed is suitable for the kinds of materials that may burn. There is a difference between the type of fire extinguisher suitable for paper, wood and textiles, compared to those used on flammable fluids and electrical equipment, for example.
Employees should be aware of which types of extinguishers and fire blankets are suitable for outbreaks of fire in different areas, and how to use them. Nominated individuals should be suitably trained and all routes to exits should be clearly marked.
Essentially, dealing with fire safety legislation requires common sense and a willingness to introduce best practice in order to meet legal requirements.