Health and safety in the workplace - what to look for when giving staff fire training

Dr. Purushothaman
December 6, 2013

Employers are legally obliged to train staff in fire safety, which also serves the bigger purpose of keeping staff and visitors safe in your place of work. This article discusses the importance of fire awareness training and the different types available.

There are three main causes for fires at work. Arson is the top cause - deliberately started fires - and these are the hardest to guard against. The other two causes however, carelessness and a lack of awareness of hazards, can be easily prevented with adequate staff fire training. Good staff fire awareness training should increase fire awareness and reduce carelessness by increasing understanding of health and safety in the workplace.

Fire training is a legal requirement, although the exact contents of the programme depend on the workplace. The style and contents of the training to be used is up to the owner or person in charge of health and safety; training must be found which is at the correct level for their company type and with content which most suits their company. There is also no law on how fire awareness training should be carried out.

Fire safety at work training can be completed as an external course attended by staff outside of the workplace; or a trainer can come into a company and run an in-house training session. An alternative is the computer fire training course. An online or CD-ROM course is a perfect training medium as it means training can be done in-house, at a time which suits the company, and each member of staff can complete the training at different times, so staff are not all tied up in training at the same time.

These areas should be covered in a fire safety programme:

• Fire awareness training - how fires are started, what keeps them going and what makes them spread

• Fire precautions - what to do to reduce the likelihood of a fire

• Fire procedures - staff should know the Fire Action Plan, who the Fire Wardens are, what the fire signs mean and what to do when evacuating

• Housekeeping - this will cover keeping fire exit routes clear and keeping flammable and combustible products safe.

• Protection - fire doors, safety checks - smoke alarms, sprinkler systems and extinguishers, regular inspection and testing of electrical equipment

• What to do in the event of a fire - raising the alarm, evacuation plans, where the assembly points are and roll-call

• Record keeping - it's important to keep records of training and provide proof of completion for each member of staff

In addition to content it is important that health and safety programmes are not too long or short. Staff must be able to easily digest and retain the information, so interactivity is important - and a test - staff are going to pay much more attention if they know they are going to have a test at the end!

There are many different providers of fire safety programmes so it is important to research to find the best one for your staff. If their website includes customer reviews and testimonials, read them and listen to recommendations. Computer-based courses may offer a preview online.

Once fire awareness training has been completed get feedback, look for improvement in working practice and behaviour and make sure training is repeated at regular intervals. There is a lot to consider, but it's worth taking the time to get training right for optimum health and safety in the workplace.

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