Understanding Your Fire Safety Training Requirements
'A well trained workforce is the best protection against the threat of fire'
As a compulsory requirement of the regulatory reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RRO), staff training is often considered a burden on an organisation and can therefore be a weakness within the workforce. More often than not, a workplace fire is caused by employer or employee actions whether through carelessness or lack of knowledge. A little information in the form of fire safety training can go a long way.
The Legal Requirements: A Flexible Friend?
The RRO might arguably be vague in its assertion of what is required from the organisation in terms of fire safety training. Words such as 'adequate', 'suitable' and 'sufficient' are common within the Order and open to wide interpretation. This is because the intention was for the Order to cover a wide range of organisations and in its attempt to become a panacea, the Order perhaps raises more questions than it answers. A wise course of action then is to establish what is specifically required for the individual organisation according to the Order. A useful resource may be found in the British Standard BS9999: 2008. It may still be a general summary of organisational needs but is more instructive and certain of the training that staff should be given. This perhaps then offers a solid base from which the organisation may start and subsequently grow into.
Who does what and according to whom?
The party responsible for deciding what actions are needed in order for the organisation to be within the law according to the RRO, is that person deemed to be in control of the fire safety for the organisation and therefore answerable to the law in the event of any failure. This person is known as the "Responsible Person". This is typically the manager, owner or operator. It is this person who amongst other duties must ensure that all staff employed either directly or indirectly receive 'suitable and sufficient' fire safety training. Training should be periodical and reviewed when there has been a 'change of responsibility, an introduction or change of work equipment, the introduction of new technology or the introduction of a new system of work', RRO (2005). The responsible person is obliged to 'appoint one or more competent persons to assist them in undertaking the preventative and protective measures', RRO (2005). These are typically Fire Wardens, Fire Marshals or Fire Safety Officers, who must have training relevant to their specific fire safety duties. The conditions surrounding the appointment of competent people were subject to close scrutiny and this resulted in the Fire Safety (Employees' Capabilities) (England) Regulations 2010 released in April of this year (See April Issue). These Regulations are a rewording of the RRO in order to clarify the necessity that employees capabilities are taken into consideration when delegated responsibilities by the Responsible Person.
So you are a Fire Warden
It is perhaps of value to consider a scenario typical to many organisations. In seeking to fulfil their fire safety duties the responsible person has appointed one or more staff members as Fire Wardens. In this example the duties of the Fire Warden are suggested to be assisting in a safe and controlled evacuation of the building, monitoring the organisational environment to prevent fire and tackling any fire deemed to be small enough to be controlled with an appropriate extinguisher. This would seem fair and does indeed assist the responsible person in terms of established fire safety arrangements. To fulfil this Fire Warden role those persons appointed must receive 'suitable & sufficient' training to be deemed competent. Specifically, those persons would require training which provides a basic understanding of fire, its causes, how it can be prevented and good housekeeping principles. They would also need training that provides an understanding of evacuation procedures and how they can fulfil their allotted tasks efficiently. In this particular scenario the Fire Wardens would also require training on fire extinguishers and their correct use according to the class of fire. It would also be necessary to train those persons in a live fire fighting environment as the recognition and tackling of fire has been expressed as a specific duty. These fire fighting courses typically use a small controlled fire which can be put out with an appropriate extinguisher.
Training the Trainer
So in the words of a well known meerkat, "Simples!" or is it? Training is one aspect of the responsible persons duties and whilst it might appear simple here, the process of breaking down the problem and providing solutions to the component parts can be a complicated process. The co-ordination of fire risk assessments, implementing significant findings, ensuring that means of escape are maintained and that suitable way guidance and fire safety signing strategies are in place are all tasks requiring attention. When you add to this the construction of a fire safety policy, fire safety arrangements plus the recording of all relevant documentation in a file of evidence, you may find that complications and an increasing work load is inevitable. Yet there is a simple answer, training. The responsible person may also receive training. As the manager of a site responsibility is often delegated by default, as those are the people who are deemed to be in control. In this instance The Fire Safety (Employees' Capabilities) (England) Regulations 2010 suggest that training for the Responsible Person role is essential.
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