News & Views

Care Home Fire Safety

DC
BY Douglas Cameron
Health & Safety

The level of understanding of fire safety requirements, and competency to undertake fire risk assessments, is of increasing interest to the Fire and Rescue Service, as demonstrated by recent unannounced visits to care homes.

It is vital that employers understand their responsibilities in relation to Fire Safety.

Employers must:

  • Take such general fire precautions as will ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the safety of any of his employees, in respect to harm caused by fire in the workplace.

  • Take such general fire precautions, as may reasonably be required in the circumstances, to ensure that the premises are safe, in relation to relevant persons who are not his employees.

  • Carry out an assessment of the relevant premises for the purpose of identifying any risks to the safety of relevant persons in respect of harm caused by fire in the relevant premises.

A suitable fire risk assessment undertaken, by a trained and competent fire risk assessor, will review the following:

Identify people at risk

  • The number, characteristics and location of occupants, residents, staff and other persons who frequent the premises should be identified.

People's familiarity with the premises, inexperience, lack of awareness and immaturity of any young persons (under 18 years) employed or resident, should be also considered.

Identify causes of fire

  • The premises should be critically examined to identify potential ignition sources and materials that might fuel a fire and the circumstances which might allow a fire to start, whether accidentally, deliberately or through lack of maintenance or precautions.

Indications of 'near misses' should also be considered.

Evaluate the risk

  • The likelihood and consequence, of a fire, should be considered when assessing risk.

In evaluating the risk to people, it is necessary to consider different situations and possible scenarios such as where a fire starts, escape routes, potential fire spread via routes such as vertical shafts, service ducts, ventilation systems, walls, partitions, ceilings and roof voids; and fire and smoke spreading through the building due to open or damaged doors.

Decide if the current fire safety measures are adequate

  • A judgement needs to be made to determine whether the fire safety measures and fire safety arrangements are adequate or if more needs to be done to safeguard persons.

  • The level of fire safety measures provided in the premises should be proportional to the level of risk posed to the safety of people.

Implement improvements

  • The outcome of the fire risk assessment needs to be acted upon.

  • Risks need to be controlled in a practical way.

  • Fire safety measures and arrangements need to be put in place.

Record findings

  • The findings should be recorded*, including any action taken or action still to be taken.

* where five or more employees are employed (whether they are on the premises or not) or the premises is subject to licensing or registration or an Alterations Notice has been issued requiring this.

Review

  • Review the fire safety risk assessment before any changes are made, if relevant safety issues arise, and in any case regularly.

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