Fire and Safety Course
Fire and Safety Course is an eligibility criterion varies from one course to another. Fire and Safety training is gaining popularity with each passing year. This sector is generating numerous job opportunities. Fire and Safety courses are also popularly known as Fire and Safety Technology / Fire and Safety Management.
The fire and safety course enables the students to assess critical fire risk measure and carry out fire safety auditing. Our fire safety institute in Lucknow takes up an advisory service for fire risk assessment and best fire and safety solution in a most economically competitive manner.
Diploma in Fire and Safety Management is a comprehensive study of risk management and measures to be incorporated during fire incidents. The study of this program is incorporated to train candidates to gain knowledge about the preventive measures to be applied during times of emergency.
Eligibility of doing Fire and Safety Course
The eligibility criteria for candidates seeking admission to the course of Diploma in Fire and Safety management course are as follows: Candidates qualifying 10+2 examinations, with passing 12th grade in any relevant discipline of Commerce/Science/Arts with a minimum aggregate listed from a recognized board is a prerequisite for admission.
Fire safety is the set of practices intended to reduce the destruction caused by fire. Fire safety measures include those that are intended to prevent ignition of an uncontrolled fire, and those that are used to limit the development and effects of a fire after it starts. Fire safety measures include those that are planned during the construction of a building or implemented in structures that are already standing, and those that are taught to occupants of the building.
FIRE SAFETY AWARENESS TRAINING
On completion of this element, you should be able to demonstrate understanding of the content by applying what you have learnt to familiar and unfamiliar situations. In particular you should be able to:
Describe the principles of fire initiation, classification and spread.
Outline the principles of fire risk assessment.
Describe the basic principles of fire prevention and the prevention of fire spread in buildings.
Identify the appropriate fire alarm system and fire- fighting arrangements for a simple workplace.
Outline the factors which should be considered when implementing a successful evacuation of a workplace
in the event of a fire.
- Three things must be present for a fire to start: fuel, oxygen and
- The five classes of fire (determined by the types of fuel) are: Class A (organic solids), Class B (flammable liquids), Class C (flammable gases), Class D (metals) and Class F (high-temperature fats). (This is under the UK system; other national or regional systems may )
- Fire can spread through a workplace by direct burning, convection, conduction and
- Fires have many different causes, but common ones are faulty or misused electric equipment, deliberate ignition, hot works, heating and cooking appliances, and smoking The consequences of workplace fires include injuries and fatalities, damage to business, and harm to the environment.
PRINCIPLES OF FIRE
The basic principles of fire and combustion can be represented by the fire triangle:
For fire to exist, three things must be present:
- Fuel – a combustible material or substance that is consumed during the combustion In a typical workplace, fuels can include paper and cardboard, wood and soft furnishings, structural materials, petrol and diesel fuels, butane, acetylene and other gases, solvents and other chemicals.
- Oxygen – consumed during combustion when it is chemically combined with the Oxygen is present in air at a concentration of 21%. During a fire oxygen can also come from other sources, including certain oxygen-rich chemicals (usually called oxidising agents), such as ammonium nitrate.
- Sources of ignition (heat) – a heat or ignition source is essential to start the combustion process. Once combustion has started it generates its own heat which is usually sufficient to keep the fire burning (in other words once the fire starts the heat source can be removed and the fire stays alight). Some examples will be described later in this
Once a fire has started it will produce heat, a flame (the zone where oxygen and flammable vapours are chemically combining in the combustion process) and smoke. The exact composition of the smoke will vary but typically smoke is made up of hot combustion gases such as carbon monoxide (CO) and carbon dioxide (CO2) and small particles (soot).
The fire triangle is useful for two reasons:
- Fire prevention – if the three elements are kept apart fire cannot
- Fire-fighting – if one of the elements is removed the fire will go
CLASSIFICATION OF FIRES
Fires are classified into five categories according to fuel type. The classification is useful as the basis for identifying which type of fire extinguisher to use (see later). Note that the classifications shown here are those used in the UK; local classification systems may exist in other countries and regions, but the UK system provides a good example.
Classification of fires:
- Class A – solid materials, usually organic, such as paper, wood, coal and
- Class B – flammable liquids, such as petrol, oil and
- Class C – gases, such as methane, propane and acetylene.
- Class D – metals, such as aluminium or magnesium.
- Class F – high-temperature fats and oils, such as cooking
Note that there is no Class E fire. This classification was avoided because of potential confusion between Class E and electricity. Electricity is not a fuel (though it can be an ignition source).
Easily ignited by a heat source at normal ambient temperatures. The words “combustible” and “inflammable” mean the same thing.
Note that the phrases “highly flammable liquid” and “extremely flammable liquid” have technical definitions that indicate these liquids can be ignited at low ambient temperatures.
PRINCIPLES OF HEAT TRANSMISSION AND FIRE SPREAD
Once a fire has started it can spread by four different methods: direct burning, convection, conduction, and radiation. In a real fire situation all four methods may apply.
- Direct Burning
The simplest method of fire spread, where a flame front moves along or through the burning material. For example, if the corner of a piece
of paper catches fire, the flame front will spread across the paper.
The principle that hot air rises and cold air sinks. Hot gases generated by the fire rise straight up from the fire:
- Inside a building these hot gases will hit the ceiling and then spread out to form a layer underneath the ceiling. When these hot gases touch any combustible material (such as a wooden curtain pole) they may heat that material up sufficiently so that it bursts into flame.
- Outdoors these convection currents will contain burning embers that are carried on the currents until the air cools and the embers are dropped to the This is
a common way for forest fires to travel and jump over obstacles (such as roads).
The principle that heat can be transmitted through solid materials. Some metals, in particular, conduct heat very efficiently (e.g. copper). Any pipes, wires, ducts or services running from room to room can act as conduits for heat and spread the fire.
Heat energy can be radiated through air in the form of infrared heat waves, which travel in straight lines (just like light) and can pass through transparent surfaces (such as glass). Radiant
heat generated by a fire shines onto nearby surfaces and is absorbed. If the material heats up sufficiently it can burst into flames.
COMMON CAUSES AND CONSEQUENCES OF FIRES IN WORKPLACES
Fires in workplaces start for many different reasons. Some of the most common causes of workplace fires are:
- Electrical equipment – faulty wiring, overloaded conductors, misused equipment and the incorrect use of electrical equipment in inappropriate environments (see Element 5).
- Deliberate ignition – many workplace fires are started deliberately. In some cases, the workplace has been targeted, g. by a disgruntled employee or an unhappy customer. In other cases, it has not, e.g. youths playing with matches on an industrial estate.
- Hot work – any work involving the use of naked flames (e.g. a propane torch or oxy-acetylene cutting equipment), or which creates a significant ignition source (e.g. arc-welding and grinding).
- Smoking – in particular, carelessly discarded smoking materials, such as cigarette butts and
- Cooking appliances, g. fat pans left unattended.
- Heating appliances, g. electric fan heaters and space heaters, especially when left unattended.
- Unsafe use and storage of flammable liquids and gases, g. petrol, acetone and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). Static sparks can be generated, which could ignite a flammable vapour.
- Mechanical heat – generated by friction between moving parts, such as a motor and its bearings, or cold work generating
- Chemical reactions – can also generate heat, g. oxidisers (rags soaked in oil and solvents are a fire hazard, because as the oil or solvents oxidise,
heat is replaced and there is a risk of spontaneous combustion).
Fires cause enormous damage to buildings and building contents. Items that are not directly destroyed by the fire will often be severely affected by smoke damage. These losses will usually be covered by insurance, although the loss of business and premises are difficult to recover, leaving many people without jobs and a place of work.
Perhaps of more concern are the consequences to people. Most of the people killed in workplace fires are not killed by the flames directly, but indirectly, by smoke inhalation. Serious burns may also result.
Fire and fire-fighting can also do significant damage to the environment. Forest fires (though not a significant risk in many parts of the world) do huge damage. Fire- fighting can cause pollution because of the large volumes of contaminated water that run off the fire site into watercourses.
Fire risk assessment is a five-step process to:
- Identify the fire
- Identify the people at risk from
- Evaluate the risk from fire; remove or reduce the risks and protect from those
- Record the findings; plan new controls; instruct and train those at
- Review the assessment
REASONS FOR CARRYING OUT A FIRE RISK ASSESSMENT
The three main reasons for assessing and managing fire risks are to:
- Prevent harm to people – all employers have a moral duty to take appropriate steps to ensure the health and safety of their employees and other people who may be
- Comply with the law – employers have legal obligations regarding fire safety and can be penalised if they fail to meet those
- Minimise the cost of fire in the workplace – most businesses that suffer a major fire do not fully recover from its If a factory or office burns down it may never be rebuilt, costing not only the business, but also the jobs of workers based there.
Fire risk assessment can also affect the overall level of risk (risk magnitude) of a company. A higher level of risk leads to a lower chance of competitive insurance premiums, and a greater chance of harming people, attracting negative publicity and losing orders – all of which affect a company’s chances in the marketplace.
Carrying out a fire risk assessment allows a company to establish a suitable safety management system and fire safety policy so it can continue to appreciate and manage the risks from fire in the workplace, as well as assuring its business future at the same time.
FACTORS TO BE CONSIDERED IN FIRE RISK ASSESSMENT
Fire safety legislation and fire safety standards vary between countries, and from region to region. Fire risk assessment is a legal requirement in many countries (e.g. in the EU). However, some factors should be considered in
any workplace; these can best be described by applying risk assessment methods to fire safety.
There are many different methodologies for carrying out a fire risk assessment. Here we are using one very similar to the five steps of general risk assessment but with special emphasis on fire safety:
- Identify the fire hazards:
- Sources of
- Sources of
- Sources of
- Identify the people who might be at risk:
- People in the
- Give special consideration to vulnerable
- Evaluate, identify and implement the fire precautions that are required:
- Prevention of the spread of smoke and
- Fire detection and
- Means of escape.
- Signs and
- Record findings, plan and train:
- Information and
- Review and revise the assessment as
Identify the Fire Hazards
At this stage the locations, types and amounts of the various potential fuels (combustibles) should be
considered. All workplaces will contain simple combustibles such as paper, packaging materials and furniture. Some workplaces may contain large quantities of highly flammable, or extremely flammable materials, such as solvents, fuel or gases.
Potential ignition sources, and the frequency and duration of occurrence, are also important. Hot works, electrical equipment, portable fan heaters, etc. should all be taken into account, especially heat sources that are frequently used for long periods of time and that require special attention to ensure safety (e.g. hot work).
Sources of oxygen are significant factors to consider; oxygen cylinders and oxidising substances can both act as oxygen sources that can increase the risk of a fire starting and the severity of the fire.
Identify the People Who Might be at Risk
As with a general risk assessment, consider the general groups of people who might be affected by a fire in the workplace. These might be employees, contractors working on site, visitors, or members of the public. The
number of people affected might be relatively small (e.g. 10 employees in a single workshop building) or very large (e.g. in a shopping centre).
Special consideration must be given to those who might be more at risk in a fire situation, such as:
- Lone workers (e.g. cleaners).
- Workers in isolated locations (e.g. maintenance staff in a boiler-house).
- Vulnerable groups, such as the very young (e.g. toddlers in a crèche), the elderly (e.g. residents in a care home) or the disabled (e.g. wheelchair users).
It might be acceptable in some instances to consider these people in groups, but in some cases it will be necessary
to consider their particular needs on an individual basis. For example, a disabled worker in a multi-storey building may have impaired vision or impaired mobility; these two disabilities present very different problems and require different solutions.
Evaluate, Identify and Implement the Required Fire Precautions
The risk of a fire occurring must be evaluated (as should existing precautions), as well as the risk to people. This can be done by thinking about:
- Potential fuels, ignition sources and oxygen
- Methods by which fire might
- How smoke and flames might travel in the
- The locations of the people in the
- The structural fire resistance of the building (e.g. presence of timber structures).
A range of preventive and precautionary measures will be necessary for all workplaces. These will include the following issues, which are covered in more detail in the rest of this element:
- Fire prevention – ways of minimising the risks of a fire occurring.
- Prevention of the spread of smoke and flames – ways of minimising the risk to people should a fire occur and allowing them time to evacuate the premises safely.
- Fire detection and alarm – to ensure that a fire is detected as soon as possible once it has started and that every person in the premises is then alerted to the risk.
- Fire-fighting equipment – portable extinguishers and fixed
- Means of escape – safe routes out of the premises to a place of total
- Signs and notices – to indicate the escape routes and the emergency
- Lighting – to enable people to use the escape routes safely.
All these fire precautions have to be inspected, tested and maintained in effective working order. This requires that a regime of routine checks is carried out at various frequencies. Records of these checks should be kept.
Record, Plan, Instruct and Train
The significant findings of the fire risk assessment should be recorded according to the requirements of national or local regulations. The exact nature of the record will vary depending on the nature of the workplace. The record might include a line drawing of the workplace (i.e. a plan, as seen from above) showing the various fire precautions and the means of escape.
New controls should be planned and an emergency plan developed outlining the emergency procedures in the event of a fire. In a simple workplace this may be nothing more than a fire action notice. In a larger, more complex workplace, more detailed plans will need to be made. This may require consultation and co-operation with other occupiers or controllers of the premises. Again, there are likely to be local requirements with regard to how this information is recorded.
All relevant people (including employees, contractors and visitors to the premises) should be given appropriate instruction and training on fire safety. The nature of
the instruction and training provided would vary, but should include fire prevention measures and emergency procedures.
Regular review of the fire risk assessment will ensure that it stays relevant and suitable.
In particular, the risk assessment should be reviewed:
- After significant changes that might affect fire safety (e.g. a change to the fabric of a building, or the introduction of a new combustible material).
- After a fire emergency (to ensure that all precautions worked as intended).
- Periodically, to ensure that things have not been missed.
Fire safety must be provided for all workers at all times. If a workplace is temporary then a fire risk assessment should be carried out and fire precautions implemented. This
is particularly the case on construction sites, where the nature of the work may mean rapid changes to the layout and nature of the workplace.
If an existing workplace is to be changed or modified in some way, and this will affect fire safety, then the fire risk assessment for those premises should be reviewed and revised as necessary. Depending on national legislation it may also be necessary to inform the fire regulation authority of the changes.
- Fire can be prevented by controlling potential fuel Risk from fuel sources can be managed by elimination, substitution, minimising quantities, and by safe use and storage.
- Fire can also be prevented by controlling potential ignition sources, such as electrical equipment, hot works, discarded smoking materials, and cooking and heating
- Safe systems of work can be used to control work activities involving fire risk, g. permit-to-work systems can be used to manage the risk associated with hot works. This includes ensuring good standards of housekeeping.
- Flammable liquids must be used and stored with appropriate care to minimise the associated fire
- If a fire does start within a building, structural measures will normally exist to contain the fire and smoke in one part of the This compartmentation must be maintained, and doorways should be properly protected with self-closing fire doors.
- Electrical equipment must be of a suitable category for use in an explosive
CONTROL MEASURES TO MINIMISE THE RISK OF FIRE IN A WORKPLACE
The best course of action to ensure fire safety is to prevent fires from starting. Fire prevention can be based on some simple ideas taken from the fire triangle:
- Control fuel
- Control ignition
- Control oxygen
In particular, minimise these sources and keep them physically apart.
Control of Combustible and Flammable Materials Combustible materials (such as paper, cardboard, wood and furnishings), flammable liquids (such as petrol and acetone) and flammable gases (such as butane, propane
and methane) are all potential fuels and should be stored, handled, transported and used with appropriate care if the fire risk that they represent is to be controlled.
The best option is to eliminate the combustible and flammable materials and substances entirely from the workplace. This might be done, for example, by disposing of old stocks of materials and substances that are no longer needed.
Alternatively, it may be possible to substitute one potential fuel source for another that presents less of a fire risk. For example, a petrol-powered generator might be changed to a diesel-powered one, eliminating the need to store and handle petrol. Since petrol is a highly-flammable liquid (i.e. easily ignited at lower ambient air temperatures) but diesel is not (i.e. not easy to ignite at ambient air temperatures) there is a considerable reduction in fire risk.
If combustible and flammable materials cannot be eliminated or substituted, then the quantities of these materials present in the workplace should be minimised. This requires good stock control, housekeeping and waste management. For example, cardboard is used extensively by many manufacturing companies as a packaging material. It will be stored in bulk in a warehouse. Minimising the stocks of cardboard reduces the fire risk in the warehouse.
For the combustible and flammable materials that remain arrangements must be made for safe use and storage.
For example, if liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) is present in a workplace the following arrangements should be made:
- Bottles (cylinders) should be stored
- The storage area should be fenced with a secure, lockable
- Warning signs should be
- Ignition sources should be eliminated from the
- Bottles should be kept upright and chained
- The storage area should be separate from other buildings.
- Empty and full bottles should be kept
- Oxygen bottles should not be stored with
- Only those bottles actually required should be removed from the storage area and should be returned after use.
Control of Ignition Sources
Poor control of potential ignition sources is a common cause of workplace fires.
- Electrical equipment should be routinely inspected and tested to ensure that it is This will prevent faults developing that might cause sparks or overheating. Both portable appliances and fixed installations should be checked.
- Hot work should be controlled with a permit-to-work system unless it is being carried out in a purpose-built area, such as a welding bay in a
- Smoking should be controlled in the
It is illegal to smoke in indoor workplaces in some countries. Even when it is not illegal, smoking can be controlled by company policies that ban or restrict it. In all cases, attention must be given to the safe disposal of smoking materials.
- Cooking and heating appliances should be used carefully and their use closely supervised. In particular, they should not be left
- Mechanical heat (such as friction from machinery and bearings) can be controlled by routine
- Deliberate ignition can be controlled by making good security arrangements for the A perimeter fence, security staff at entrances, CCTV, security lighting, etc. can help.
Systems of Work
Systems of work must be designed to minimise fire risk. The degree to which this is done and the exact procedures implemented should be decided through the risk assessment process.
An example of a safe system of work applied to fire safety is the use of a permit-to-work system to control hot work (where naked flames, or a significant ignition source will be created).
Typical precautions for control of hot work:
- Combustible and flammable materials are removed from the work
- Items that cannot be removed are covered with fire-retardant
- The floor is swept
- Any wooden floor is damped
- A suitable fire extinguisher is at
- A “fire-watcher” is present in the area while the work is carried
The work area is visited routinely after the work has finished to check the area for smouldering
Good housekeeping is fundamental to fire safety and is about keeping the workplace:
- Waste-free, by removing waste on a regular basis (e.g. emptying full litter bins) so that it does not build up and increase the fire risk as a potential fuel
- Tidy, so that combustible and flammable materials are returned to safe storage after use (e.g. solvents returned to the solvent store).
- Well-ordered, so that fuel and ignition sources are kept separate (e.g. ensuring fan heaters are not obstructed).
Pedestrian routes should also be kept clear (e.g. with no obstructions by the fire-escape door), so that they can be used in the event of a fire evacuation.
STORAGE OF FLAMMABLE LIQUIDS IN WORKROOMS AND OTHER LOCATIONS
Flammable liquids have a relatively low flash-point (between 21°C and 55°C) and can be quite easily ignited with a heat source (such as a match) at room temperature.
Highly flammable liquids have a lower flash-point (from around 0°C to 21°C) and are therefore easier to ignite.
Extremely flammable liquids have an even lower flash- point (well below 0°C) and are very easy to ignite at room temperature. Petrol (gasoline) is a common example of an extremely flammable liquid.
The lower the flash-point, the more dangerous the substance. It is therefore essential that flammable liquids are used and stored safely.
Safe use of flammable liquids:
- Use the minimum volume of liquid
- Liquid should be in a properly labelled
- Ideally the container will be metal with a self- closing lid.
- Use a metal tray to catch spills and have absorbent material
- Use the liquid away from heat and ignition sources.
- Ensure that the workspace is well
- Return containers to safe storage after use. Safe storage of flammable liquids in workrooms:
- Store minimal volumes
- Store in a purpose-built flammables cabinet, which should:
- Be fire-resistant (usually metal).
- Have lockable doors and fire-resistant hinges and
- Be clearly
- Have a built-in catch tray to contain
- Be located away from ignition
Safe storage of flammable liquids in other locations:
- Store liquids in a purpose-built, single-storey flammables store, which should:
- Be built of non-combustible
- Have a lightweight roof for explosion
- Ideally be built outdoors, away from other buildings, or with firewall
- Suitably fenced in a secure
- Be well ventilated at high and low
- Have lockable access doors with sills to contain
- Have clear and safe access for the fire
- All electrical systems should be intrinsically
- All other ignition sources should be
- Adequate fire-fighting equipment and suitable fire-safety signs should be
- Regular checks for security, secure and safe storage, leaks of liquids, etc should be carried
STRUCTURAL MEASURES FOR PREVENTING THE SPREAD OF FIRE AND SMOKE
If a fire starts on the ground floor of a large, open-plan multi-storey building that has open stairwells, convection will drive the hot smoke from the fire upwards. The smoke will fill the ground floor of the building and then rise up each of the open stairwells. Each stairwell will, in effect, become a chimney. The hot smoke will then fill the upper storeys of the building. The fire will not be contained
and will spread through the building. The building will be destroyed, or suffer severe damage. Any people in the building, especially in the upper storeys, will become trapped and die as a result of fire and smoke inhalation
because they will not have time to escape, and their escape route (the stairwells) will be full of smoke and flames.
The above scenario is obviously undesirable. If fire prevention does not work and a fire does start in a building, it should be contained and prevented from spreading. This can be done by designing the
building in such a way that it is divided up into separate compartments, each surrounded by fire-resistant materials that can resist the spread of smoke and flame.
This compartmentation is done at the initial design and build stage but may also have to be done if a building is changed or modified. This is normally a heavily legislated issue, which is subject to strict control and local standards.
If the multi-storey building in our scenario is compartmentalised, when the fire starts on the ground floor it will be contained in one part of the building. This will give time for the fire to be detected, the alarm raised and the building evacuated. Containment may result
in the fire dying down or even going out as a result of oxygen starvation. If this does not happen, then the fire will eventually break through the containment, but this will take time.
Constructing walls, floors and ceilings from fire-resistant materials and ensuring that the building is broken up into appropriate compartments is only fully effective if any openings in the compartment walls are sealed. Since people have to move through buildings, doors must be
fitted to openings. These doors must be built to withstand the spread of smoke and flames. Such doors are known as fire doors.
Typical characteristics of a fire door are:
- Rated to withstand fire for a minimum period of time (e.g. 30 minutes).
- Fitted with a self-closing
- Fitted with an intumescent
- Fitted with a cold smoke
- Vision panel of fire-resistant
- Clearly labelled (e.g. Fire Door – Keep Shut)
A strip built into the edge of a fire door that expands when it gets hot, sealing the gap between the door and the door frame.
COLD SMOKE SEAL
A plastic or foam strip that seals the gap between the door and frame at all times.
Note that these are typical characteristics of fire doors and the actual specification will vary according to need and local standards.
Heavier fire doors may be needed to:
- contain fire within compartments that contain greater fire risk (e.g. a plant room); or
- keep fire out of compartments that contain fire- sensitive contents (e.g. a computer room), in which case a higher rating will be required (one hour, two hours, ).
Most fire doors are fitted with a self-closing device that pulls the door shut once a person has walked through it. Some fire doors are fitted with electromagnetic openers that keep the fire door open at all times. If the fire alarm activates, or the electrical supply to the opener is interrupted, the door is released and closes. This type of
door is common in corridors with heavy pedestrian traffic, where a normal fire door would be an obstruction
Properties of Common Building Materials
Fire affects different building materials in different ways. The use of building materials, therefore, has to be tightly controlled to ensure that appropriate materials are used in a structure. For example, fire compartments must be robust enough to withstand the spread of fire for their design time, and structural elements in a building should
not fail quickly when they are heated in a fire. There will be local regulation and standards to ensure fire safety.
- Concrete is usually very resistant to fire and does not collapse catastrophically. It may “spall” (throw off small chunks).
- Steel is severely affected by high temperatures. Expansion may occur, pushing structural elements apart. Steel may also twist and These effects can lead to catastrophic building collapse.
To overcome the problems associated with using steel as a structural material, it is usually encased in concrete or coated with a fire-retardant foam or paint (intumescent paint), which insulates it from excessive heat.
- Brick is usually very resistant to fire (bricks are made by exposure to very high temperatures in a kiln).
- Timber – thin timber, such as floor boards, will burn, but thick timber, such as structural beams, will not usually burn in a building fire (a layer on the outside of the timber will char and protect the inner core). Thick timber is unlikely to fail suddenly, but will do so
Other materials can also make a difference to fire resistance and the behaviour of a fire in a building:
- Insulation (such as wall insulation) can be combustible so fire-retardant versions must be
- Wall coverings (such as paint and wallpaper) can make a difference to the way fire spreads across surfaces, so they should also be closely
Protection of Openings and Voids
We have already noted that fire doors are used to ensure that door openings are protected in the event of fire.
However, buildings, and the fire compartments that they are made up of, will inevitably have numerous voids and openings running through them, such as:
- Voids between
- Roof voids,
All of these need to be protected to ensure that smoke and flame cannot easily travel from one compartment to another. This protection can be done in many different ways, e.g. a self-closing shutter held open by a fusible link (a piece of soft metal that melts at a very low temperature, releasing the shutter).
It is important that any new openings made in fire break walls are reinstated or protected in some way, e.g. when cables are run through a hole in a wall the hole might be filled with fire-retardant foam.
ELECTRICAL EQUIPMENT FOR USE IN FLAMMABLE ATMOSPHERES
Electrical equipment sited in an atmosphere containing a mixture of a dangerous substance and air could well ignite that explosive atmosphere if it is not built to the correct specification. For example, in the UK a standard 230 V inspection lamp taken into a storage tank containing petrol vapour would act as the ignition source for that petrol vapour. Dusts and vapours can result in flammable or explosive atmospheres.
Legislation, such as the European ATEX directives, will govern the control of flammable atmospheres and the use of electrical equipment in those areas. There are two of these directives: the ATEX 95 Equipment Directive, which controls equipment available for supply for use in flammable areas; and the ATEX 137 Workplace Directive, which requires the workplace to be controlled to ensure safety of workers. ATEX takes its name from the French title of the directive: Appareils destinés à être utilisés en ATmosphères EXplosibles (Devices for Use in Explosive Atmospheres).
Broadly, the ATEX Workplace Directive requires the employer to classify hazardous locations into zones and then control the fire and explosion risks as appropriate, where:
- an explosive atmosphere might be created by the presence of a dangerous substance in a gas, vapour or mist form mixed with air; or
- an explosive atmosphere might be created by the presence of a combustible dust mixed with
The zones are classified on the following basis:
For gases, vapours and mists the zone classifications are:
- Zone 0 – a place in which an explosive atmosphere is present continuously, or for long periods, or
- Zone 1 – a place in which an explosive atmosphere is likely to occur in normal operation
- Zone 2 – a place in which an explosive atmosphere is not likely to occur in normal operation but, if it does occur, will persist for a short period
For dusts the zone classifications are:
- Zone 20 – a place in which an explosive atmosphere is present continuously, or for long periods, or
- Zone 21 – a place in which an explosive atmosphere is likely to occur in normal operation
- Zone 22 – a place in which an explosive atmosphere is not likely to occur in normal operation but, if it does occur, will persist for a short
The employer would then be required to select the appropriate work equipment for use in the area. The ATEX Equipment Directive sets standards for the specification of electrical equipment that is intended for use in classified hazardous areas, as follows:
Note that Category 1 equipment can be used in Zones
Zone 0 or Zone 20
Zone 1 or Zone 21
Zone 2 or Zone 22
1 and 2 as well, and Category 2 equipment can be used in Zone 2. Such electrical equipment will be marked with an Ex sign in a hexagon, with a number indicating the category
- When a fire starts in a building there must be an appropriate system to detect the fire early and raise the alarm with building A range of detection and alarm systems exists; larger workplaces have fully automatic fire alarm systems that rely on automated smoke or heat detectors linked into a central control system, which is, in turn, linked to alarm sounders/indicator lights.
- There must also be portable fire extinguishers available so that people can fight the fire, if necessary. Fire extinguishers contain different extinguishing media, such as water, carbon dioxide, foam and dry Each type of extinguisher is designed for use on specific classes of fire in different circumstances and each has strengths and limitations.
- All portable fire extinguishers must be inspected and maintained routinely to ensure safe Training should be provided for users so that they are able to use extinguishers safely and effectively.
FIRE DETECTION, FIRE WARNING AND FIRE- FIGHTING EQUIPMENT
Common Fire Detection and Alarm Systems
One of the most critical factors in determining whether people live or die in a fire in a workplace is how quickly the fire is detected and how quickly people are alerted. This is also a critical factor in determining how easily the fire will be controlled and extinguished.
Ideally, fires will be detected as soon as they start, and building occupants will be alerted to the presence of the fire immediately so that an appropriate response can be mounted. This response should usually be a full building evacuation and a call to the local fire service.
It is, therefore, essential that an appropriate fire detection and alarm system is used in a workplace. The exact type of system used will usually be subject to local regulation and standards, but some general principles can be applied:
- The simplest system – in a simple workplace, where all parts of the workplace can be seen by the occupants and there is no great fire risk, no detection or alarm system may be If there is a fire, people will see it and shout “fire”. This may be acceptable as long as the workplace is not so large that some people would not hear that shout.
- Simple, with more noise – if the workplace is simple and low-risk, but large enough that building occupants might not hear a shouted alarm, then a hand-operated alarm might be used (such as a hand bell, whistle, or air horn).
- Manually-operated fire alarm – this system can be manually activated at call These call points are usually buttons behind a clear plastic disc that, when hit, breaks, activating the system. The system will have a central control box and sounders (and/or lights)
at positions throughout the workplace that give the alarm.
- Interlinked smoke alarms – if there are rooms (such as plant rooms or stores) that are not normally
occupied (so a fire might start there and no one would notice), then a simple automatic detection and alarm system might be fitted, made up of interlinked smoke alarms. This consists of individual ceiling-mounted units that both detect smoke from the fire and give the alarm sound, and which are linked together so that when one sounder activates all of the sounders emit the alarm
- Automatic fire alarm – a system made up of automatic detectors and manual call points linked into a central control box, which is linked, in turn, to sounders (and/or lights). If a person sees the fire they can activate a manual call point and raise the
If there is no person present then the automatic detectors will activate the system and raise the alarm. This type of system is commonly used to protect medium to high-risk workplaces, multi-storey buildings and workplaces where sleeping accommodation is provided (such as care homes).
An automatic fire-alarm system can be quite simple or very complicated, depending on the workplace in which it is installed. In some workplaces the building is subdivided into zones and the fire-alarm system can give different warning sounds depending on which zone the fire was detected in. In this way, phased evacuations (see later) can be achieved.
The type of automatic fire detector that is used with a fire-alarm system also varies depending on the situation.
- Smoke detectors are very common, and:
- Detect small smoke particles, are usually very sensitive and give early
- Are of two main types: ionising and
- Can give rise to false alarms if used in a humid, wet, dusty or smoke-filled
- Heat detectors are more suitable for certain applications, and:
- Detect the excess heat generated by a fire, are usually less sensitive and give later
- Come in two main types: ‘rate of rise’ and ‘fixed temperature’.
- May not detect smouldering fires that are giving off smoke but not much
Portable Fire-Fighting Equipment
If a fire starts in a workplace it may be possible to extinguish that fire quickly and effectively using a portable fire extinguisher. This might be done with minimal risk to the user, preventing the fire from escalating, potentially saving life and property. If there is no portable fire extinguisher
present then there may be no choice but to leave the fire to burn out of control.
In addition to portable extinguishers, other fire-fighting equipment can be found in workplaces:
- Fire blankets – used to physically smother small Very useful for cooking areas where fat fires might occur, and also for smothering burning clothing.
- Hose reels – sited in buildings to allow fire teams to fight
- Sprinkler systems – sited in buildings and warehouses to automatically damp down a
Siting, Maintenance and Training
Fire extinguishers and other fire-fighting equipment should be positioned on fire exit routes near exit doors and close to the specific hazard that they are provided to protect against (e.g. a fire blanket close to a gas hob in a kitchen). They should be clearly visible and signed.
Fire extinguishers should be inspected and maintained routinely to ensure that they are always available in safe working order:
Frequent routine inspections – to ensure that extinguishers are present at their designated positions and that they appear to be in good order (with their firing pin still tagged in place). This might be done as part of a routine housekeeping inspection, or as a specific fire safety check.
Planned preventative maintenance – to ensure that they remain in safe working order. This is normally carried out on an annual basis by a certificated engineer and may involve inspection, testing and dismantling (depending on the type of extinguisher).
Records should be kept of visual inspection and maintenance checks carried out. This will usually be the subject of local regulation and codes of practice.
Workers who might have to use portable fire extinguishers must be trained in their safe use. This training should include theoretical training (classroom-based) and also some practical training (this will normally involve workers using real fire extinguishers to put out real fires, set up under controlled circumstances, either at the workplace or at a training centre). It should include:
- General understanding of how extinguishers
- Importance of using the correct extinguisher for different classes of
- Practice in the use of different
- When to tackle a fire, and when to leave it
- When to leave a fire that has not been extinguished. Records should be kept of training Again, this may be the subject of local regulations and codes of practice.
Fire extinguishers are usually coloured red. In some countries a colour-coding system is used for extinguishers to enable quick recognition of the different types, but this colour-coding is not universal
Access for Fire and Rescue Services and Vehicles
Fire-Fighting Vehicle Access
Fire engines need to be able to get close to the perimeter of a building so they can position and deploy high-rise equipment such as turntable ladders, hydraulic platforms and pump appliances with fire-hoses. The fire regulations in some countries and regions (especially the EU) may place a duty on occupiers of premises to maintain such access.
The requirements for vehicle access differ depending on the presence of fire mains, the size of the building and the type of fire appliance to be used:
- For small buildings without a fire main, access for a pump appliance should be provided to 15% of the perimeter, or to within 45 metres of every point on the building
For large, high-rise buildings, the entire perimeter will need to be accessible to fire-fighting appliances
Access to Buildings for Fire-Fighting Personnel
For high-rise buildings, a protected fireman’s shaft may be needed, which combines such facilities as a fire-fighting lift, fire-fighting stairs and fire-fighting lobbies. The requirements will depend on the size and design of the building and whether it has automatic sprinkler systems.
Fire-fighters require information relating to the contents of the building and any hazardous materials, or processes and facilities that might create a risk to them while they carry out their duties. The emergency plan that the company has in place should include arrangements for nominated and competent persons to liaise with the fire service on their arrival.
- The means of escape is the route that a person will take from wherever they happen to be in a building to a safe place
- There are many factors that influence the means of escape, such as: travel distances; number of available escape routes; escape route width; design of any doors in the escape route; and provision of suitable assembly
- In particular, the means of escape must be properly signed and provided with emergency lighting, where necessary.
- Every workplace must have procedures to ensure the safe evacuation of people from buildings in the event of
- These procedures will require nominated staff to carry out certain duties, such as to act as fire These staff should be trained in their specific role.
- Information on fire evacuation procedures should be provided to others, as
- Fire drills allow staff to practise their emergency response and allow management to monitor the effectiveness of emergency
- Special procedures may be required to ensure the safe evacuation of the infirm or
Means of escape should be shown on the plans of a building
MEANS OF ESCAPE
When a fire emergency occurs and people have to evacuate a workplace there must be one or more escape routes available for them to use. This escape route is the “means of escape”. Local regulations, codes of practice and standards vary in determining exactly what might be required in each specific circumstance, but the following general principles can be applied:
- There should be a means of escape available to every person in a workplace, whether they are in an office, workroom, plant room, basement, on the roof, or on a scaffold on a construction
- The means of escape should allow an able-bodied person to travel the entire route by their own unaided effort. They should not have to use machinery (such as a passenger lift) except in special cases (when the machinery must be rated for escape purposes).
- The means of escape must take a person from wherever they are in the workplace to a place of safety outside the building where they are able to move away unrestricted.
- Two or more separate escape routes may have to be provided so that if one route is blocked there is
another available. This is common in high occupancy multi-storey buildings
- The travel distance that a person has to cover from their location in the building to the final exit out of the building should be as short as possible (and must normally meet specific maximum distance criteria).
- The width of corridors, passageways and doors should be sufficient to allow the free and fast movement of the numbers of people that might be anticipated (and must normally meet specific minimum width criteria).
- The escape route should be clearly signed and appropriately
- Emergency lighting should be provided where necessary (in case the mains power supply fails).
- The route that a person has to take should be unimpeded by obstructions such as stored material or inappropriate
Many factors affect the exact specification of the means of escape. Two important factors are the number of people that will be occupying any given room or area, and the general level of fire risk of the workplace. So, for example, the means of escape for a low-risk workplace with a small number of employees present (e.g. 10) might consist of one exit involving a long travel distance. However, this would be unacceptable for a high-risk workplace with
a large number of employees (e.g. 200), where several alternative exits with short travel distances would be required.
One important characteristic of the means of escape is the travel distance that a person has to take from wherever they are in a room or area to the nearest available:
- Final exit (which takes the person outside the building to a place of total safety).
- Storey exit (which takes the person into a protected stairway).
- Separate fire compartment (which contains a final exit).
This travel distance has to be assessed during the fire risk assessment when determining the means of escape and is subject to guidance. Generally, the higher the fire risk of the workplace, the shorter the travel distance has to be.
The number of exits is another important characteristic of the means of escape. In some instances it may be acceptable to provide just one exit route from a room or area. However, if the fire risk is high, the number
of occupants is high, or travel distances are long, two or more exits should be provided. The underlying principle of having two exits is that a person can turn in two completely different directions and then has two completely separate routes through and out of the building.
Stairs and Passageways
Stairs and passageways used as means of escape usually have to be protected against fire ingress to a higher degree than other parts of a building to ensure that they will
be free of smoke and flame, so that they can be used as escape routes. The walls, floor and ceiling will, therefore, be fire-resistant and any doors will be fire doors. It is important that these stairs and passageways are kept free of any equipment or materials that might start, or become involved in, a fire.
Doors in the means of escape must be suitable, and:
- Easily operated by a person in a
- Wide enough to allow unimpeded
- Open in the direction of travel (though this is not usually a strict requirement where occupancy numbers are low).
- Able to be opened at all times when they might be needed (not locked in such a way that a person in the building cannot open them).
Emergency (Escape) Lighting
Escape routes should be adequately lit. Normal workplace lighting will normally achieve this, but there should be arrangements to cover non-routine situations (such as night-time working) and power failures. Emergency escape lighting may be necessary where power failure will result
in a blackout. In very simple workplaces this may be a rechargeable torch but in many workplaces emergency escape lighting units are required. Emergency escape lighting should:
- Illuminate the escape
- Illuminate fire signs and
- Be maintained in safe working
- Be tested
Exit and Directional Signs
The escape route should be easy to follow. Signs should be provided so that people can see the direction of their available escape routes quickly and easily, leading all the way to a final exit, also signed. These signs should meet relevant regulations, standards, etc. and be carefully selected and fixed so that they are very easy to interpret. Some signs, especially in critical positions, can also incorporate escape lighting, while others may be photo- luminescent (signs that “glow in the dark”).
An assembly point is a place where workers congregate once they have evacuated a building. This allows for a roll call to be taken and any missing persons to be identified.
Assembly points should be:
- A safe distance from the building (it may be on fire).
- At a safe location (not in a high hazard area).
- At a location where further escape is possible if needed.
- Out of the way of fire-fighters.
In some cases, a temporary assembly point or “refuge” may be provided inside a building. This is a protected location (normally on or adjacent to a main means of escape) where people can wait for a short time. This might be used as a location where a person with impaired mobility temporarily waits for assistance to evacuate the building
The following factors should be considered when developing a fire plan:
- Details of who is likely to be in the building:
- Vulnerable persons
- Action to be taken by the person who finds the fire:
- How will the alarm be raised?
- How will the emergency services be contacted (will this be an automatic system, or will someone be required to phone the fire service)?
- Escape routes:
- Number and
- Provision of fire exit route
- Emergency lighting of escape corridors and stairwells.
- Fire-fighting equipment:
- Provision of portable equipment (types and location).
- Action to be taken after evacuation:
- Fire marshals to check building is
- In use of Equipment
- Fire Drills
- Co-operation with other employers on site
Emergency Evacuation Procedures
Every workplace should have formal documented procedures in place to deal with fire emergencies, including:
- Nominating responsible staff to fulfil certain
- Training staff and providing information to visitors and members of the
- Conducting drills to test
Emergency procedures must be developed so that staff know what to do in the event of foreseeable fire
emergencies. Appropriate procedures should tell people the action to take if they discover a fire and what to do if the alarm sounds. These procedures are usually quite simple:
The emphasis in any procedures must be on personal safety and the key message must be to sound the alarm, get out and stay out!
More complicated procedures may have to be developed for certain situations. For example, in a hospital, rather than use the basic approach given in the sample procedure above, it might be more appropriate to carry out a phased evacuation. Here, only those in the immediate vicinity
of the fire are evacuated at first, followed by a gradual evacuation falling back from the seat of the fire. In this way, the large numbers of people and the practical issues
associated with moving the infirm might be managed more easily.
Training and Information
All employees in a workplace should be provided with basic information about fire safety in general and the fire procedures in particular. This should be done at induction and might be repeated periodically, or as the need arises.
Information on fire procedures should also be provided to contractors and visitors, perhaps through induction
training programmes, or by providing written information.
Informing members of the public about fire procedures can be more of a problem since, in many workplaces, they can walk in off the street and there is no opportunity for providing written information (e.g. at a shopping centre). In these circumstances, a public address (PA) system may be the best way of keeping the public informed of an emergency situation and the action that they should take.
Appropriate training should be provided to staff who:
- Might have to use portable fire extinguishers, or other fire-fighting
- Have a fire marshalling role (see below).
- Will be helping infirm or disabled people during an evacuation.
- Are members of the fire team. Records of all training should be
Employers should take into account the health and safety capabilities of employees when entrusting them with
fire safety tasks. This will apply at all levels of employee training, including competent persons, fire marshals, etc
Whatever the fire evacuation procedures are, there will always be the need for some members of staff to take on particular roles in the emergency situation, perhaps as nominated “fire marshals” (sometimes called “fire wardens”) to take roll calls of workers at assembly points and report back to a responsible manager.
Fire marshals might be required to:
- Check all areas in the building to ensure that everyone knows that an evacuation is in progress and to help where This is common practice in buildings where members of the public may be present (e.g. shopping centres).
- Give special assistance to the disabled and This may require the use of special evacuation equipment such as an “evac-chair”.
- Investigate the site of the fire (as indicated by the fire alarm system controls).
Some workplaces operate a fire team whose role involves investigation of fire alarms and fire-fighting. High-risk installations may even have their own in-house fire-fighters with all the vehicles, equipment and resources that might be available to the emergency services (e.g. at an airport).
Fire evacuation arrangements need to be tested by carrying out fire drills. Some of these may be in response to false alarms, but others should be planned.
- Allow workers to practise emergency
- Enable the effectiveness of procedures to be tested to ensure that fast, effective evacuation of the building takes place and that all workers behave in an appropriate
Records of fire drills, learning points and follow-up actions should be kept.
Evacuation of a Workplace
Once workers and contractors have evacuated a building and collected at their assembly points, it is usual to take a roll call to ensure that all persons are accounted for and no one is missing. This means that arrangements must be made for taking an effective roll call; accurate lists of
names of those on site must be produced and responsible individuals given the task of taking the roll-call.
In some cases, a roll call will be impractical, so an alternative method of ensuring that people have evacuated from the workplace will be required (e.g. building checks by fire marshals).
Provision for the Infirm and Disabled
Staff with hearing or other disabilities must be accommodated within an evacuation plan. Plans must be in place to assist people in wheelchairs who cannot use stairs if a lift is inactivated (in most cases, lifts and escalators
are not appropriate as escape routes). Provision must also be made for the needs of other groups with limited mobility, such as children and elderly people. Temporary
illness and infirmity must also be taken into account, e.g. a worker with a broken leg must be accommodated in the evacuation plan.
When putting these arrangements in place, the nature and degree of disability or infirmity should be taken into account, ideally in consultation with the individual concerned. Various solutions might then be considered: For example:
- A worker with some hearing impairment might be capable of hearing the audible fire alarm in their work area, so no special arrangements are
- A profoundly deaf worker might not be able to hear the audible alarm, in which case a visible alarm (flashing light) might be used in conjunction with the audible alarm; or a buddy system might be adopted where
a colleague alerts the worker to the fire alarm; or a technical solution might be sought involving a vibrating pager.
- A wheelchair user above ground level in a multi-storey building might be provided with a refuge adjacent to the stairwell (a protected area where they can wait for a short period of time). They might then be helped down the stairs by nominated responsible individuals, perhaps with the aid of an “evac-chair”. Note that they should not be left alone in the refuge and that their safe evacuation is usually considered the responsibility of their employer, not the fire and rescue
The means of escape should be shown on the plans of a building. These plans usually constitute one of the records contained in the fire risk assessment. In some situations building plans should be displayed in the building (e.g. in a multi-storey building, a plan of each floor may be displayed on that floor) so that those within it can clearly see what their escape routes should be. Examples of building plans are often found on the back of hotel-room doors.
This element has dealt with some of the hazards and controls relevant to fire in the workplace. In particular, this element has:
- Outlined some of the basic principles of fire such as: the fire triangle; classification of fires; the methods by which fire can spread; and some of the common causes and consequences of workplace
- Described the reasons for carrying out a fire risk assessment, and shown fire risk assessment as a five-step process of identifying fire hazards; identifying the people who might be at risk; evaluating, identifying and implementing fire precautions required; recording the findings, planning and training; and reviewing and revising the assessment as
- Outlined the factors to be considered during fire risk assessment, including consideration of temporary workplaces and changes to
- Explained how fire and the spread of fire can be prevented by controlling potential fuel sources (e.g. safe use and storage of flammable liquids) and potential ignition sources (e.g. hot work).
- Outlined the structural measures that exist to contain fire and smoke in the event of a fire starting, and the use of self-closing fire doors to protect door
- Described the general principles of fire detection and alarm
- Discussed the main types of fire extinguisher commonly used, such as water, foam, dry powder and carbon dioxide, and the strengths and limitations of each
- Outlined the need for electrical equipment used in flammable atmospheres to be suitable for such environments (with reference to the European ATEX directives).
- Outlined the principal characteristics of a means of escape, such as: travel distances; number of available escape routes; escape route width; design of any doors in the escape route; assembly points; signage; and emergency lighting.
- Described basic requirements for evacuation procedures, fire marshals, training and information, fire drills and special procedures for the infirm or disabled, and the inclusion of escape routes in building