Fire safety arrangements will vary depending on factors such as the type of organisation, the size and complexity of the property and staffing. But all must be both clear-cut and strictly enforced, says Allison Connick.
19 August 2015 | By Allison Connick
Effective fire management requires clear and concise processes for both management and site level employees.
There should be a clear fire policy in place irrespective of the size of the organisation. For large organisations, company arrangements should identify:
- Assigned responsible people conversant with fire safety and fire systems.
- Commitment to eliminating, where possible, health and safety risk from fire or effectively controlling these risks through processes including hard and soft systems.
- A strategy and process to reduce fire incidents to the lowest level possible (types of properties being covered by the policy will vary - complex properties with heavy footfall must be monitored differently to a small single asset); and
- Active reviews and audits to constantly improve fire safety standards in light of new technology, legislation and best practice.
Additionally, a senior employee should be responsible for:
- Ensuring that the fire safety policy is implemented effectively;
- Have final authority on all fire safety matters;
- Monitoring performance with respect to statutory and policy requirements; and
- Endorsing the fire safety policy and delegating, where necessary, the responsibility for policy implementation.
If the responsibility for fire policy implementation has been delegated the arrangements should detail:
- Authority to ensure that relevant staff are given adequate information, instruction and fire management training for their role and the specific buildings they are responsible for;
- Control or elimination of fire management risks; and
- The appointment of one or more competent people to help with fire safety matters.
In addition, building and facility managers have specific and important duties that need to be managed. These include:
- All testing, including regular maintenance of fire systems (usually sub-contracted to a specialist M&E company);
- Up-to-date, sufficient and accurate fire maintenance and testing records (usually contained within a fire log book);
- Co-operation with fire risk assessments to ensure that actions are completed;
- Ensuring that if fire evacuations are required, they are carried out; and
- An understanding of the overall fire strategy for the building.
Fire risk assessment
The scope of any fire risk assessment must include direct and indirect responsibilities for the building. If yours is a building with multiple tenants the building manager is often the main duty holder and therefore holds much greater responsibility in terms of making sure the building remains safe from fire and smoke. It is wise to have an escalation process that deals with breaches or potential breaches, irrespective of ownership - for example, blocking fire exits in retail premises where communal fire exits exist.
There is a specific guide by BSI called PAS 79 that outlines the format for a fire risk assessment.
An effective fire risk assessment is a matter of determining competency and experience - it's much easier to complete on a retail park compared with a complex shopping centre or office block. Whoever is in charge of its completion (if outsourced) must have the technical competence to deal with issues over applicability of fire systems and any resulting recommended actions. The Institution of Fire Engineers' Register of Fire Risk Assessors and Auditors is a useful resource.
Who should do what
The roles of the FM or building manager roles are to:
- Keep a formal log of incidents and ongoing actions taken at site;
- Ensure that contractors maintain up-to-date and accurate testing and maintenance records within the fire log book;
- Have a robust, clear process in place for contractors' activities such as hot works and refurbishments; and
- Create a regime to check that occupiers of multi-tenanted buildings are not putting other building occupants at risk.
In addition, facility or building managers should not be undertaking a fire risk assessment for occupiers in multi-tenanted buildings.
Managers should look out for these common issues.
- Fire stopping - commonly missed and if it's not managed correctly the wrong sort of fire stopping is often used.
- Alarm call points need to be in rotation and regularly checked.
- Fire alarms and fire service response - consider also what happens out of hours.
- Fire doors - ensure that automatic doors actually work.
- Have specific assessments been undertaken - including means of escape, smoke ventilation and sprinklers and purging of flammable liquids - in the event of an incident at a complex site including a shopping centre and an office block?
Allison Connick is UK director of safety, health and environment at CBRE