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Life on the front line - fire

fire
Health and Safety specialist Phil Wass takes a look at fire issues.
Health and Safety specialist, Phil Wass takes a look at problems some of his clients had recently in the hope that this may benefit your ongoing management of health and safety. Most of us never expect to have direct experience of a serious health and safety issue within their own workplace however, sometimes we do. Phil hopes he can motivate as many readers as possible to take ‘proactive’ action before any such event occurs at their own premises - for in most cases, it is not ‘if’ something will happen to you – it is when!


The issues I have had to help clients deal with fall under the general headings of fire, hazardous substances, work equipment, manual handling and vehicle / pedestrian movement.

This month I will look at fire. One of my clients recently had a small fire which occurred around 13.00 hours on a Sunday - over a bank holiday weekend. An electrical fault is believed to have caused this fire which was luckily spotted by a third party in time for the alarm to be raised at a very early stage and the fire brigade to thus be called very promptly too.

There was minimal ‘fire damage’ to the area of the premises affected but considerable ‘water damage’ was sustained as the fire brigade took the necessary fire fighting action to bring this situation under control so that it could be ensured that the area was then safe for re-occupation. This still meant that the area of the premises affected was out of use for some weeks afterwards whilst it was brought back into a reasonable state for re-use.

Another fire event which I was involved in was caused by self combustion of rags heavily impregnated with a highly flammable substance. This occurred overnight in unattended premises and resulted in substantial fire damage at these premises.

Phil Wass
Phil Wass is a Chartered Safety and Health practitioner and has a Masters Degree in Occupational Health and Safety. He is Managing Director of Wass Management Limited who specialise in all aspects of health and safety training, advice and guidance. Phil is an advisor to the Motor Vehcile Dismantlers' Association and understands the needs of the industry. He regularly carries out work for MVDA members.

If you have any health and safety issues, visit Wass Management Limited, email Phil or you can contact him on 01773 541441
Finally, another client has had an enforcement notice served by the local fire officer giving them a deadline of just 6 weeks to act in resolving several workplace fire safety deficiencies (including the absence of a fire risk assessment, the absence of a formal fire emergency procedure, etc.).

So what can we take from all of this? It would be expected that you would be instructing an external competent person to inspect the condition of your incoming electrical supply at ongoing 3 year intervals (at least). All of your portable electrical appliances should be inspected by individual users every time they are used so that any faults (such as damage to plugs, damage to cables, etc.) can be spotted and the equipment promptly taken out of use (if damaged) until it can be repaired. To complement such arrangements for the safe use of portable electrical equipment then an ongoing PAT regime should also be in place tailored to each specific piece of equipment, its age, its location and its useage interval, etc..

If you are handling highly flammable substances and rags are becoming impregnated with these then you should be disposing of these in sealed metal containers after use and specifically at the end of every shift (thus giving overnight protection).

Finally, you must have a ‘suitable and sufficient’ fire risk assessment for your premises. If you carried this out yourself then you have hopefully already addressed any problems this uncovered. However if you engaged a third party to do this for you (i.e. a consultant of some kind) then do not fall into the trap of just filing away the report and never reading it. This report will contain a section detailing recommendations to improve fire safety at your site and this needs to be read and actioned.

I fully understand that you all lead busy and demanding lives but the next time you walk around your yards just stop for a few minutes and watch what is going on with a ‘fresh pair of eyes’. Then ask yourself – what could happen ? Also, then ask yourself if you are currently doing enough to reduce the chance of the worst scenario (in that case) of ever actually happening. If you feel that you could do more then take some action to step health and safety up a gear at your site – ‘sooner rather than later’.


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