Firefighters strike: Businesses should mitigate for a limited service from the Fire Brigade
Fire-fighters in Deeside will strike for the fifth and sixth times this weekend, between 6pm and 10pm on both Friday 13 and Saturday 14 December.
In situations such as a firefighters strike, insurance companies expect businesses they insure to take prudent steps to mitigate the potential effects of an emergency in respect of life safety and risks to property. It is essential to remember that, in the event of a fire outbreak, the first few moments are the most important and the actions taken during this period will probably influence the outcome of the incident. To reduce the potential effects of the strike, it is recommended that the following procedures are put into effect as soon as possible.
1. PREVENTIVE CHECKS AND PROCEDURES
– If at all possible, issue individual circulars to staff prohibiting smoking in the workplace, including predefined smoking areas/zones. Use company email to judiciously pre-warn staff of this procedure.
– Do not leave electrical equipment on during non-working periods, as this is the second most common cause of fire in the UK behind arson/deliberate ignition.
– Prohibit the use of temporary heating equipment unless absolutely essential and, if so, ensure that a detailed risk assessment, management controls, and precautions are applied.
– Prohibit any “hot work” (such as cutting and welding) unless it is absolutely necessary. Where it is necessary, follow strict safety procedures with specific authorisation by signed permits to work, listing safeguards to be adopted before, during, and after hot work.
– All contractors should be advised of restrictions in place regarding hazardous operations.
– Check the segregation of hazards and the distribution of hazardous goods, such as flammable liquids and aerosols, and ensure that suitable controls are in place.
– Perform frequent self-inspection checks, preferably on a daily basis, paying particular attention to infrequently visited areas such as battery-charging stations, plant rooms, and stores. Focus on:
- Good housekeeping standards.
- Correct storage of flammable liquids and gases.
- Control of ignition sources.
- Strict enforcement of smoking controls.
2. FIRE PROTECTION EQUIPMENT AND FACILITIES
– Ensure sprinkler system and water supply tests and checks are carried out as usual.
– Ensure that all business continuity plans are up to date.
– Plan for all maintenance of protection systems to be completed before the strike date. Postpone any work that requires sprinkler impairments.
– Closely monitor any emergency impairment to systems and keep insurers advised as appropriate.
– Check all fire extinguishers to ensure that they are in position and serviced.
– Check that all automatic and manual fire alarm/detection systems are operational.
– Check that all gas flooding/dry powder/ other suppression systems are connected, fully charged, and operational.
– Verify the location of hydrants and test as appropriate.
3. SECURITY AND ARSON
– Be extra vigilant against the threat of arson by ensuring a minimum of external combustible storage, and by moving waste bins away from buildings. Potential arsonists will be aware of the strike!
– Ensure that intruder alarms are fully operational.
– Consider additional security patrols, especially out of working hours and in unattended areas. check site perimeter security, remedying any deficiencies, including CCTV systems.
4. EMERGENCY RESPONSE
– In the event of a fire alarm call 999 immediately, unless alternative arrangements are advised by the emergency services. do not rely on a central monitoring station to call the public fire brigade.
– Fire evacuation procedures should be tested, covering all shifts and checking to ensure that all staff know how to raise the alarm in the event of a fire.
– If not already in existence, consider establishing a plant emergency organisation, under senior management control, with designated duties to nominated employees (and named substitutes). Their functions should include:
- Ensuring that all members of staff know how to use the fire extinguishing appliances provided.
- Evacuation of staff and head count.
- Safe shutdown and isolation of processes and services electricity, gas, water, etc.
- Trained first aid fire-fighting parties.
- The words “first aid” are used to emphasise the restricted role envisaged. These groups should not attempt more than an initial fire control effort using portable extinguishers only – and then only from a safe position where a safe escape route exists.
- Salvage removal and damage control groups, during and after the incident.
- Implementation of pre-planned business recovery processes (cancelling raw materials, deliveries, advising absent key personnel and customers).
– Consider special emergency response training for selected staff. Any staff who are retired firemen, special constables, or off-duty policemen could be given specific responsibilities.
– It is essential that all business continuity plans are up-to-date.
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