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Step 1: Identify possible fire hazards 12
Step 2: Decide who might be harmed and how 14
Step 3: Assess the risks and decide what 16 precautions to take
Controlling sources of ignition 17 Limiting the fuel for a fire 17 Detecting and warning about fires 18 Escaping a fire 19 Fighting fires 22 Maintaining and testing fire precautions 23 Housekeeping 24 Fire safety information for employees 24 Vulnerable groups 25
Step 4: Record what you find 26
Step 5: Review your fire risk assessment 28
Appendices 30
More information 51 Relevant fire laws 51 Useful contacts 52 Useful publications 54
Contents:
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Every year, there are around 650 fires in workplaces in Northern Ireland, putting people at risk and damaging property. Many of these could be avoided if fire safety was properly managed.
This booklet explains how you, the employer, can reduce the risk of fire in your workplace and what you have to do to keep to the laws relating to fire issues.
You may also find this booklet useful if you are:
self-employed; an employee; a representative for employees; in control of workplaces which people you do not employ or members of the public have access to; or any other person who has a role in managing fire safety in the workplace.
5Introduction
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Responsibilities
If you are an employer or you own premises, you have a legal duty (see the note below) to make sure that your workplace or premises and the people who work there are kept safe from fire and its effects. You can do this by:
carrying out a fire risk assessment for your workplace; using the risk assessment to find out who might be especially at risk if there was a fire (you must keep a record of this information if you employ five or more people); providing and maintaining the necessary fire precautions to protect the people who use your workplace; and providing information, instructions and training to your employees about the fire precautions in your workplace.
Note: For more information on fire laws, please see page 51 at the back of this book.
7How do fires start?
For a fire to start, the three things in the triangle below are needed.
Fuel Flammable gases, liquids and solids including fine powders and dust.
Oxygen Always present in the air. Other sources come from substances which produce oxygen.
If any one of these is missing, a fire cannot start. So, taking steps to avoid the three coming together will reduce the chances of a fire happening.
Ignition sources Hot surfaces, electrical equipment, static electricity, smoking and naked flames.
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Where do I start?
You need to carry out a fire risk assessment for your workplace.
What is a risk assessment?
Carrying out a risk assessment simply means looking at what, in your work activities and workplace, could cause harm to people. This will allow you to decide whether you have taken enough precautions or need to do more to avoid harm.
What do the terms ‘hazard’ and ‘risk’ mean?
A hazard is something that could cause harm (for example, a hot surface).
The risk is the chance of that hazard causing harm, together with an idea of how serious the harm could be.
Why do I need to carry out a fire risk assessment?
A fire risk assessment will help you to decide:
what the chances are of a fire starting in your workplace; whether a fire in your workplace would put people in danger; whether your existing fire precautions are suitable; or whether more precautions are needed.
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How do I carry out a fire risk assessment?
There are five simple steps involved in carrying out a fire risk assessment.
Step 1: Identify possible fire hazards in your workplace.
Step 2: Decide who might be harmed and how.
Step 3: Assess the risks and decide what precautions to take.
Step 4: Record what you find, tell your employees and make the necessary improvements.
Step 5: Review your fire risk assessment and update it if necessary.
For a risk assessment template, please see appendix 9 at the back of this book.
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Fire risk assessment
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When carrying out your risk assessment:
use your and your employees’ knowledge and experience to identify fire hazards in the workplace; remember to consider work processes that could cause a fire, such as welding or grinding; take the whole of the workplace into account, including outdoor locations and rooms you rarely use; for small premises, you can assess the workplace as a whole; for larger premises, it will help to divide the workplace into zones such as offices, stores and stairways; and if you share your premises with other businesses, discuss your risk assessment with them.
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Identify possible fire hazards in your workplace Step 1
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A fire cannot start without a source of ignition (for example, matches) and something to fuel it (for example, wood shavings), so look for these in your workplace. Some examples are given in the tables below.
You should also consider how your premises are built and how this might allow a fire to spread. If you have particular concerns, you should ask for advice from the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service, Building Control or other experts (see page 52 for contact details).
Step 1: Identify possible fire hazards in your workplace
Sources of ignition
Lit cigarettes or matches
Naked flames
Hot processes (such as welding)
Faulty or misused electrical equipment
Sources of fuel
Wood, paper or card
Flammable liquids and solvents, such as paints, varnish, thinners
Flammable gases, such as liquefied petroleum gas (LPG)
Waste materials, in particular finely divided materials such as wood shavings, dust and paper
Decide who might be harmed and how Step 2
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You should be clear about which groups may be at risk.
Remember to consider:
all of your employees; vulnerable groups such as people with disabilities, young workers or people with communication difficulties; people who are not in the workplace all of the time, such as cleaners or visitors; members of the public; and people in other businesses who share your workplace.
Step 2: Decide who might be harmed and how
Assess the risks and decide what precautions to take Step 3
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Start by looking at your existing fire precautions, then decide whether more precautions are needed. You should consider the following points.
A – Controlling sources of ignition
Some suggestions
Remove unnecessary sources of heat from the workplace. Make sure that your machinery and equipment has been designed to limit the risk of fire and explosions. Make sure that all your electrical equipment is regularly serviced and fit for the purpose it is being used for. Smoking should only be allowed in safe areas away from any sources of fuel. (See the note below.) Make sure that any processes involving ‘hot work’ (such as welding) are properly managed and controlled. Keep in a safe condition any equipment that could provide a source of ignition.
Note: Smoking is not allowed in enclosed workplaces in Northern Ireland.
B – Limiting the fuel for a fire
Some suggestions
Remove or reduce flammable materials and substances and replace them with less flammable ones if possible. Make sure that flammable materials are handled, stored and used correctly. Store flammable substances in their proper storage containers in fire-resistant cabinets. Store larger amounts of flammable substances in a fire resistant store. Do not allow waste materials and rubbish to build up. Do not allow grease, dust or oil to build up around equipment. Make sure you keep flammable materials away from any sources of ignition (for example matches).
Step 3: Assess the risks and decide what precautions to take
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C – Detecting and warning about fires
You must have an effective way of:
detecting any fires; and warning people in your workplace quickly enough to allow them to escape to a safe place before the fire spreads and makes it more difficult for them to leave the building.
Detecting a fire
Consider arrangements for detecting a fire. You should decide whether you need to install automatic fire detectors or smoke alarms. These may not be necessary in smaller workplaces. (For more advice, speak to the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service – see page 52 for contact details).
Warning about a fire
In smaller workplaces where all exits are clearly marked and employees only need to travel a short distance to escape, you may only need to give a shouted warning. If employees are spread out over a wider area and you cannot guarantee that they will hear a shouted warning, you could use a manually operated sounder (for example, a rotary gong or a hand bell). Larger premises may need an electrical alarm system with manual call points. If there is a lot of background noise in your workplace or you have an employee with a hearing problem, you may also need to install a visual alarm, such as a distinctive flashing or rotating light.
19D – Escaping a fire
Once people are aware of a fire, they should be able to leave the building safely. When considering how your employees can escape if there is a fire, you should think about:
the size of the workplace, how it is built, its layout, its contents and the number and width of available escape routes; where people may be in the workplace and what they might be doing when a fire starts; the number of people who may be in the workplace and how familiar they are with the building; and whether employees are able to escape without needing help.
You should also have an agreed safe assembly point which all employees are aware of.
General principles for escape routes
Escape routes should always lead to a safe place. They should also be wide enough for the number of people inside the building. Escape routes, exits and doorways should always be available for use and kept clear of obstacles at all times. There should be more than one escape route in larger or higher-risk premises.
Escape route doors You should make sure that people escaping can open any door on an escape route easily and immediately, without having to use a key. All outward opening doors on escape routes should be fitted with a device such as a panic latch or push pad.
Fire doors Fire doors should close themselves and be labelled ‘Fire Door – Keep Shut’.
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Emergency escape and fire exit signs Emergency escape routes and exit doors should be clearly identified by suitable signs.
Lighting All escape routes, including outside ones, must have enough lighting to allow people to find their way out safely. Emergency escape lighting may be needed in poorly lit areas or if the workplace is used at night.
Emergency lighting Emergency lighting needs to work if the normal lighting fails completely. It should:
show the escape routes clearly; provide lighting along escape routes to allow people to move safely towards the final exits; and make sure that fire call points and firefighting equipment can be found easily.
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Emergency plan You should prepare an emergency plan which provides clear instructions on:
the action employees should take if they discover a fire; how people will be warned if there is a fire; how the workplace should be evacuated; where people should go after they have left the workplace and procedures for checking whether the workplace has been evacuated; where the main escape routes are and how people can use them to escape to safe places; the firefighting equipment provided; which employees have specific responsibilities if there is a fire (for example, the fire warden) and what their duties are (for example, making sure that all areas of the building have been safely evacuated and taking a head count); how to safely evacuate the people identified as being especially at risk, such as disabled people, members of the public and visitors; if appropriate, which machines, processes and power supplies need to be stopped or isolated if there is a fire; specific arrangements, if necessary, for areas of the workplace which are a higher risk; how the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) and any other necessary emergency services will be called and who will be responsible for doing this; procedures for communicating with the NIFRS when they arrive and telling them about any special risks (for example, where any highly flammable materials might be kept or the location of any asbestos); and what training employees need and arrangements for making sure they receive this training.
E – Fighting fires
All workplaces should have equipment for putting out fires.
Fire extinguishers
Portable fire extinguishers allow suitably trained people to tackle a fire in its early stages (if they can do so without putting themselves in danger). When deciding on the types of extinguishers to provide, consider the materials you use and store in your workplace (see the picture below). Fire extinguishers should be kept in obvious positions on escape routes and close to high-risk activities such as welding. If possible, fire extinguishers should be securely hung on wall brackets and not placed directly on the floor.
Fire blankets
Fire blankets should be kept near the fire hazard they will be used on. Store blankets in a position which is easy and safe to get to if there is a fire. Light-duty blankets are suitable for dealing with small fires in containers of cooking oil or fat and fires involving clothing. Heavy-duty fire blankets are for industrial use where there is a need for the blanket to protect against molten materials.
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Fire extinguishers, their colours and uses
Water (red) Wood, Paper, Fabrics and so on
Foam (red with a cream band) Flammable liquids, oils, fats and so on
Powder (red with a blue band) All fires including electrics, flammable liquids and gases
Carbon dioxide (CO2) (red with a black band) Flammable liquids and electrical fires
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Sprinkler systems
If your workplace is small, portable fire extinguishers will probably be enough for tackling small fires. However, in larger buildings, or if you need to protect the escape routes or the property or contents of the building, you may need to consider a sprinkler system.
F – Maintaining and testing fire precautions
You must keep fire safety measures and equipment in the workplace in effective working order. This includes the following:
Fire detection and alarm systems Firefighting equipment Fire doors Stairways Corridors Emergency lighting Fire notices
You will need to:
appoint a competent person (someone with the necessary knowledge, experience and ability) to carry out regular checks, servicing and maintenance, whatever the size of the workplace; put any faults right as quickly as possible; keep a record of the work carried out; carry out regular fire drills; and appoint a competent person to act as fire warden, both during fire drills and if there is a fire.
Please see appendices 1 to 8 at the back of this booklet for the type of checks that should be carried out on your fire safety systems, equipment and procedures and how often they are needed.
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G – Housekeeping
Good housekeeping will reduce the possibility of a fire starting. Some suggestions are as follows.
Do not allow rubbish, waste paper or other material which could catch fire to build up. Do not store large amounts of flammable materials unless this is absolutely necessary. Store flammable materials in an appropriate place (see page 18). Turn off electrical equipment when it is not being used (unless it is designed to be permanently connected). Make sure that you do not leave material which could easily catch fire close to a source of heat. Make sure that machinery and any office equipment is well ventilated and regularly cleaned.
H – Fire safety information for employees
Information You should give your employees information about fire precautions in the workplace and what to do if there is a fire.
You also need to consider employees who:
work outside normal working hours; work alone; have disabilities; or have communication difficulties.
Make sure that you provide training and written information in a way your employees can understand.
You should give all employees information about:
which escape route to use from where they are working; and the fire warning system used in the area they are working in.
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You should display fire notices in places where they can be easily seen. However, you should not use these notices as a substitute for providing formal training.
I – Vulnerable groups
You should make special arrangements for vulnerable groups of people in your premises. While carrying out your risk assessment, you will need to consider:
both employees and visitors; new and expectant mothers; temporary workers; people working alone; people with disabilities; people with communication difficulties; people whose first language may not be English; young workers; and older people.
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Record what you find, tell your employees and make the necessary improvements Step 4
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Write down the results of your fire risk assessment and share them with your staff. If you have fewer than five employees, your results do not have to be in writing, although it is useful to do this so that you can review it at a later date or if something changes.
When making the necessary improvements, draw up an action plan and tackle the high-risk hazards with the most serious consequences first.
Your fire risk assessment should show that you:
carried out a proper check; considered all those people who might be affected; dealt with all the significant hazards; have reasonable precautions in place, and have limited whatever risk is still present; and involved your staff in the process.
Step 4: Record what you find, tell your employees and make the necessary improvements
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Review your fire risk assessment and update it if necessary Step 5
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Few workplaces stay the same. Sooner or later, you will bring in new equipment, substances and procedures that could lead to new fire hazards. You may also make alterations to the building. Because of this, it makes sense to continually review your fire risk assessment to consider whether:
there have been any changes; there are improvements you still need to make; your employees have spotted any problems; and you have learnt anything from ‘near misses’.
Make sure your fire risk assessment stays up to date.
Step 5: Review your fire risk assessment and update it if necessary
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Appendices
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Over the next few pages, you will find suggested templates for the recommended checks to be carried out on your fire safety systems, equipment and procedures. These are summarised in the table below.
Appendix number 1
2
3 4
5 6 7 8
Title
Fire alarm – inspection and check
Smoke alarms – inspection and check
Firefighting equipment location checklist
Firefighting equipment – inspection and check
Fire doors – inspection
Stairways and corridors – inspection
Emergency lighting – inspection and check
Fire drill
How often
Weekly
Yearly (by a qualified service engineer)
Weekly
Yearly (by a qualified service engineer)
Weekly
Weekly
Yearly (by a qualified service engineer)
Weekly
Weekly
Weekly
Twice yearly
Appendix 9 is a fire risk assessment template.

Inspect and check all fire-alarm systems (including manually operated devices) every week to make sure they are well maintained and working properly. Repair or replace any faulty equipment. As well as these weekly checks, you should arrange for a qualified service engineer to fully check and test the systems every year, and keep a copy of the engineer’s report.
Appendix 1: Fire alarm – inspection and check (weekly)
Date Location of call point checked
Result Action taken to correct faults
Time the alarm was reset
Signature

Inspect and check all smoke alarms every week to make sure they are well maintained and working properly. As well as these weekly checks, you should arrange for a qualified service engineer to fully check and test the systems every year, and keep a copy of the engineer’s report for your records.
Appendix 2: Smoke alarms – inspection and check (weekly)
Date Location of smoke alarm checked
Result Action taken to correct faults
Signature

Carry out a weekly check to make sure that all firefighting equipment is in the correct location.
Appendix 3: Firefighting equipment location checklist (weekly)
Location of equipment
Hose reelWater extinguisher
Foam extinguisher
Dry powder extinguisher
Carbon dioxide extinguisher
Fire blanketFire bucketFire alarm call point
Hand bell or gong
Total
Date Signature

Check all firefighting equipment every week to make sure that it is installed and working properly. Check that the safety tags are intact on all fire extinguishers and make a note of when they were last tested by a qualified service engineer. As well as these weekly checks, have a qualified service engineer fully check and test the equipment every year and keep a copy of the engineer’s report.
Appendix 4: Firefighting equipment – inspection and check (weekly)
Date Location Type of equipment
Details of inspection or check
Result or action taken
Signature

Fire doors on staircases, stores, kitchens, ducts and plant rooms should be inspected every week. Fire doors should close properly and the fire-resistant strip on the inside of the door should be intact. Final exit doors should open easily and be free from obstacles.
Appendix 5: Fire doors – weekly inspection
Date Location Is the door faulty? (Yes or no)
Result or action taken
Signature

Appendix 6: Stairways and corridors – weekly inspection
Date Location Is there enough lighting?
Is it clear of obstacles or trip hazards?
Are the guardrails secure (if this applies)?
Result or action taken
Signature

Check all emergency lighting every week to make sure it is working properly and repair or replace where necessary.
Appendix 7: Emergency lighting – weekly inspection and check
Date Location Details of inspection or check
Result or action taken
Signature

A fire drill should be carried out at least twice a year and at different times during the day.
Appendix 8: Fire drill
Date Number of staff Time taken to evacuate
Comments Signature

What are the hazards? Activity or areaWho might be harmed and how?
What further action is necessary?
What are you already doing?
Action by whom?
Action by when?
Done
Company name: Title:
Date of next review: Date assessment was carried out: Assessment carried out by:
Appendix 9: Fire risk assessment template

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Relevant fire laws
On 15 November 2010 the legislation regarding fire safety regulations in non-domestic premises changed.
The Fire Services (Northern Ireland) Order 1984 was repealed on 15 November 2010 and the previous fire certification process ceased. Existing premises that have previously been subject to that Order will most likely be compliant in terms of their fire safety measures. However, it is now necessary for those premises to have a current fire risk assessment.
Part 3 of The Fire and Rescue Services (Northern Ireland) Order 2006 and The Fire Safety Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2010 came into effect on 15 November 2010. The legislation seeks to replace and simplify existing fire safety legislation in non-domestic premises using a modern risk based approach to fire prevention. This means that any person who has some level of control in premises must take reasonable steps to reduce the risk from fire and make sure people can safely escape if there is a fire. If you have five or more employees, or require a licence or registration, you must record the significant findings of the risk assessment and any actions you have taken to remove or reduce the risk.
Fire Precautions (Workplace) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2001 If a fire risk assessment for the premises has been carried out under this legislation and this assessment has been regularly reviewed, then all that should be required is a revision of that assessment taking into account the wider scope of the new legislation.
For further information please see the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service website: www.nifrs.org
More information
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Health and Safety Works NI (HSWNI) Address: Longbridge House 16-24 Waring Street Belfast BT1 2DX
Phone: 030 0020 0030 Textphone: 028 9054 6896 Fax: 028 9034 7490 E-mail: hswni@detini.gov.uk Website: www.healthandsafetyworksni.gov.uk
Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) Address: 83 Ladas Drive Belfast BT6 9FR
Phone: 028 9024 3249 Textphone: 028 9054 6896 Helpline : 080 0032 0121 Fax: 028 9023 5383 E-mail: mail@hseni.gov.uk Website: www.hseni.gov.uk
Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) Address: Headquarters 1 Seymour Street Lisburn County Antrim BT27 4SX
Phone: 028 9266 4221 Fax: 028 9267 7402 E-mail: enquiries@nifrs.org Website: www.nifrs.org
Building Control Northern Ireland Website: www.buildingcontrol-ni.com or contact your local council office.
Useful contacts
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Planning Service Headquarters Address: Millennium House 17-25 Great Victoria Street Belfast BT2 7BN
Phone: 028 9041 6700 Fax: 028 9041 6802 E-mail: planning@doeni.gov.uk Website: www.planningni.gov.uk
The Equality Commission for Northern Ireland Address: Equality House 7-9 Shaftesbury Square Belfast BT2 7DP
Phone: 028 9050 0600 Textphone: 028 9050 0589 Enquiry Line: 028 9089 0890 E-mail: information@equalityni.org Website: www.equalityni.org
HSE Books Address: PO Box 1999 Sudbury Suffolk CO10 2WA
Phone: 017 8788 1165 Fax: 017 8731 3995 Website: www.hsebooks.co.uk
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‘Risk assessment simplified’ Available from HSWNI (see page 52)
‘Five steps to risk assessment’ Available from HSWNI (see page 52)
‘Fire safety in construction’ ISBN code 978 0 7176 6345 3 Available to download from www.hse.gov.uk
Fire safety-risk assessment – office and shops ISBN code 13 978 1 851128150 Available to download from the NIFRS website (see details below)
Fire safety-risk assessment – factories and warehouses ISBN code 13 978 1 851128167 Available to download from the NIFRS website (see details below)

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