Fire Training - what are you learning?
Training, experience and knowledge are often cited as the three components of competency. With fire safety rightly being re-examined currently, let's take a look at fire training.
The word 'training' appears thirteen times in Articles 8-24 of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order (RR(FS)O), featuring in six of the specific topic areas/requirements. The provision of fire training in the workplace can vary significantly from a generic video as part of an induction and a passing comment on where the nearest exit is, to more detailed practice and feedback exercises for the fire safety management team, fire wardens/marshals and staff.
So what is right for you and the fire training in your organisation?
1. RR(FS)O - Article 21. Training
Article 21 of the RR(FS)O explicitly covers training and says:
"(1) The responsible person must ensure that his employees are provided with adequate safety training:-
(a) at the time when they are first employed; and
(b) on their being exposed to new or increased risks because of-
(i) their being transferred or given a change of responsibilities within the responsible person's undertaking;
(ii) the introduction of new work equipment into, or a change respecting work equipment already in use within, the responsible person's undertaking;
(iii) the introduction of new technology into the responsible person's undertaking; or
(iv) the introduction of a new system of work into, or a change respecting a system of work already in use within, the responsible person's undertaking.
(2) The training referred to in paragraph (1) must:-
(a) include suitable and sufficient instruction and training on the appropriate precautions and actions to be taken by the employee in order to safeguard himself and other relevant persons on the premises;
(b) be repeated periodically where appropriate;
(c) be adapted to take account of any new or changed risks to the safety of the employees concerned;"
(d) be provided in a manner appropriate to the risk identified by the risk assessment; and
(e) take place during working hours.”
In essence fire safety training should be delivered at the start of employment or where changes occur that might materially affect the risks, process and procedures or other activities in your workplace.
So with change of use, "re-purposing" and the traditional 9 to 5 office hours all potentially impacting on the requirements, are the inductions you provide fit for purpose for your staff in your buildings today?
2. Where else does training feature in Articles 8-24 of the RR(FS)O and what does it say?
The word training features:
- Twice in Article 13
- Once in Article 15
- Three times in Article 18
- Twice in Article 23; and
- Twice in Article 24.
13. Fire-fighting and fire detection
"(3) The responsible person must, where necessary:-
(b) nominate competent persons to implement those measures and ensure that the number of such persons, their training and the equipment available to them are adequate, taking into account the size of, and the specific hazards involved in, the premises concerned;
(4) A person is to be regarded as competent for the purposes of paragraph (3)(b) where he has sufficient training and experience or knowledge and other qualities to enable him properly to implement the measures referred to in that paragraph."
15. Procedures for serious and imminent danger and for danger areas
"(1) The responsible person must:-
(a) establish and, where necessary, give effect to appropriate procedures, including safety drills, to be followed in the event of serious and imminent danger to relevant persons;
(b) nominate a sufficient number of competent persons to implement those procedures in so far as they relate to the evacuation of relevant persons from the premises; and
(c) ensure that no relevant person has access to any area to which it is necessary to restrict access on grounds of safety, unless the person concerned has received adequate safety instruction.
(3) A person is to be regarded as competent for the purposes of paragraph (1) where he has sufficient training and experience or knowledge and other qualities to enable him properly to implement the evacuation procedures referred to in that paragraph."
18. Safety assistance
"(5) A person is to be regarded as competent for the purposes of this article where he has sufficient training and experience or knowledge and other qualities to enable him properly to assist in undertaking the preventive and protective measures.
(6) Paragraph (1) does not apply to a self-employed employer who is not in partnership with any other person, where he has sufficient training and experience or knowledge and other qualities properly to assist in undertaking the preventive and protective measures.
(7) Paragraph (1) does not apply to individuals who are employers and who are together carrying on business in partnership, where at least one of the individuals concerned has sufficient training and experience or knowledge and other qualities."
23. General duties of employees at work
"(1) Every employee must, while at work:-
(c) inform his employer or any other employee with specific responsibility for the safety of his fellow employees-
(i) of any work situation which a person with the first-mentioned employee's training and instruction would reasonably consider represented a serious and immediate danger to safety; and
(ii) of any matter which a person with the first-mentioned employee's training and instruction would reasonably consider represented a shortcoming in the employer's protection arrangements for safety, in so far as that situation or matter either affects the safety of that first-mentioned employee or arises out of or in connection with his own activities at work, and has not previously been reported to his employer or to any other employee of that employer in accordance with this sub-paragraph."
24. Power to make regulations about fire precautions
"(2) Without prejudice to the generality of paragraph (1), regulations made by the Secretary of State may impose requirements:-
(f) for securing that persons employed to work in the premises receive appropriate instruction or training in what to do in case of fire;
(g) for securing that, in specified circumstances, specified numbers of attendants are stationed in specified parts of the premises; and
(h) as to the keeping of records of instruction or training given, or other things done, in pursuance of the regulations."
These Articles are considering more targeted training for individuals, both within and from outside your organisation, who are identified as responsible for additional fire safety activities such as:
- Fire wardens/marshals;
- Those carrying our site inspections or other premises/activity checks (for example); and
- Those providing further assistance or outside support.
What all these confirm is that competence, of which training is a significant piece of the jigsaw.
3. What should be included in fire safety training?
Depending on your organisation, your training should be tailored to the audience, but cover
four key elements. These are and should include:
1. Background information and legislation
- Your fire policy
- Any special considerations for your premises (high risk areas, licences, retail/residential mix, etc.)
- Information on fire (i.e. the fire triangle, smoke and fire spread)
- The legal framework and the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order
- Employer and employee responsibilities
- How fires start and the common causes of fire
2. Fire prevention, management and your building
- Good housekeeping
- Fire prevention/risk reduction
- Hazard spotting and reporting
- Incident and near miss reporting
- The fire control/safety measures in the premises (escape routes, emergency lighting, signage, fire doors and compartmentation, location of alarms and firefighting equipment etc.) and how they work
- Equality Act policy and procedures
- Fire marshals and wardens - who they are and what they do?
3. Actions in the event of a fire
- Raising the alarm on discovering a fire
- Evacuation procedures in the event of hearing an alarm (e.g. phased or "all out")
- Final point of assembly
- Fire and rescue service contact procedure
- The role of others (fire wardens/marshals, security, facilities, etc.)
4. First aid firefighting and equipment available
- What fire fighting equipment you have?
- How you recognise different types of firefighting equipment and what it should be used for?
- How different types of firefighting equipment should be used and by whom?
- Theory training or practical training on the use of fire extinguishers can depend on your policy and whether the use of extinguishers is or is not encouraged. For fire wardens and fire marshals knowing what to do in practice can be a valuable tool.
The detail of what should be covered should reflect the audience with fire wardens/marshals, security, catering or other staff actively involved in your fire management procedures having greater information/content as appropriate.
Contractors or visitors should also be provided with relevant information or site inductions as required.
E-learning course are a popular method for providing fire training but should not be seen as a catch all. While for general information it is an easily accessible and acceptable, where your staff have specific responsibilities (fire wardens/marshals, security) or are in higher risk areas (catering, manufacturing, facilities, etc.) more targeted training practical/classroom would be recommended.
4. How often should you provide fire safety training?
All new staff, or those changing buildings, should receive induction training on their first working day.
A number of the Fire and Rescue Services have also recommended at "least once a year provide refresher fire safety training sessions" so staff remain familiar with the procedures and arrangements at their place of work.
Training should be provided on a more frequent basis for example where:
- Particular staff has direct responsibilities for supporting your fire procedures (i.e. fire wardens/marshals, security, maintenance, catering reception, departmental management, staff etc.);
- The situation in the building changes and alters the fire risks/procedures;
- You have staff or others sleeping in the building;
- Your hours of operation change; and
- You are undergoing refurbishment or other works.
Again the content of this training should be relevant to the changes or additional responsibilities. Also these do not have to be a formal classroom sessions, they can be delivered practically, as part of evacuation drills (i.e. lessons learnt feedback), tool box talks or other forms of updates.
5. Some considerations for delivering successful fire safety training
1. Keep the content engaging and relevant to the audience. Remember that putting someone in front of a video for ten minutes may not produce the desired outcome in the event of a real incident.
2. Include lots of different elements to the training as the attendees will have a range of different learning styles for the information they need to learn and take on board.
3. Make it as building specific as you can, while inevitably not all the content can be tailored in this way, having pictures, places people can go to, or view the equipment round their premises, all helps to reinforce the message.
4. As well as classroom or desk based training, use evacuation drills and other scheduled events as part of the training mix, with organised feedback sessions.
5. Agree the structure of the training with your provider around the key objectives and messages you want to deliver.
6. The importance of documenting evacuation drills (or having evacuation drills independently audited) so lessons can be fully learnt and this further practical training can be evidenced.
At Assurity Consulting our fire safety management team would be more than happy to help you in assessing your current position with fire within your organisation. For more information on our services, please contact us on tel. +44 (0)1403 269375 or email us.