The importance of fire training in the workplace

The importance of fire training in the workplace

  • Date: Wednesday 26th February 2020
  • PDF: Download

The importance of fire training in the workplace is underrated. Whilst not necessarily being shown the same level of time and seriousness that current hot topics like mental health, first aid or site welfare are receiving, fire is a constant and very real hazard to UK organisations.

Home Office statistics for 2018/19 showed that UK’s fire and rescue services attended 15,005 ‘primary fires’ in non-dwelling buildings. There were 17 deaths with a further 1,061 non-fatal casualties as a result. As well as impacting on people’s lives, the effects on businesses following fires can be profound, with figures showing around 70% of companies fail within three years of a major fire.

Regardless of industry sector, fires are more likely to happen in the workplace than you may think and are typically due to:

  • Faulty electrical appliances
  • Clutter in office spaces or warehouses – waste and combustible materials
  • Poor housekeeping standards
  • Human error
  • Smoking
  • Arson

Everyone is at risk if there is a fire. However, there are some workers who may be at greater risk because of when or where they work, because they’re not familiar with the premises or the equipment at the work site or because of a lack of confidence in their ability to protect themselves and others.

One of the key strategies to maintaining a safe workplace and preventing fires is fire safety training. Under the Fire Safety Order 2005 and Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, employers should ensure workers receive appropriate training in fire awareness and the procedures to follow in the case of fire. Fire safety training can teach workers how to recognize fire hazards, prevent a workplace fire and respond if a fire occurs.

There is no one set way to do this, as the best approach depends on the particular challenges faced and specific factors to be considered. Personnel in different industry sectors may have diverse perceptions with regards to fire prevention, which can make it difficult to encourage engagement. In more commercial sectors, learning about fire prevention may be perceived as a waste of time and an unwanted distraction from tasks deemed “more important”, as compared to those sectors where caring for others is a more fundamental requirement. Whilst employers should promote the importance of fire safety and training within the workplace, this will be ineffective unless it the information is absorbed, retained and acted upon by staff.

Fire training can be delivered either via classroom-style courses which may or may not involve practical activities, or via online courses. The former drives individuals to become more proactively involved in their learning and encourages discussion as well as practicing for real-life scenarios. The latter can be more beneficial to some employers however as it enables employees to train at a time and location suitable to them; ensuring productivity does not take a hit. It also allows those with lower confidence levels to learn without feeling intimidated by more confident members of the team.

With proper training, staff can help eliminate fire hazards and respond quickly and efficiently if a fire breaks out. Without proper training a small occurrence can quickly grow to become a major incident with devastating outcomes.

Source: Chloe Phillips

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