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Work Health and Safety Blog

There's so much happening in the world of health & safety. Changes in legislation and requirements, changes in best practice, changes in ... you name it. Here's my take on making it simple. Simply Genius WHS - stop guessing... manage with confidence.

Fire risks in your workplace

Maralyn Kastel - Monday, June 03, 2013

Owners, managers and workers of all businesses need to be prepared and capable of managing emergencies including the potential of a fire. All workplaces have potential fire risks and these must be managed as an integral part of work health and safety management. 

There is a legal requirement under the WHS Regulations under Chapter 3, Part 3.2, Division 4 of Work Health & Safety Regulation to have an emergency management plan in place and the management of a potential fire is a part of your emergency management plan.  There is also the national Code of Practice, Managing the Work Environment and Facilities which sets out the requirements for emergency plans.

Your emergency management plan must be tested at regular intervals. We suggest that a minimum testing of this plan is annually, although more frequent testing may be required depending on the risks in the workplace. Part of your plan is an assessment of hazards in the workplace, as well as external hazards such as bushfires. One area to pay particular attention to is identifying the fire hazards and how to prevent a fire in the workplace.

For fire hazards this means that:

  • the emergency plan is prepared and approved by management
  • you have an accurate identification of workplace hazards
  • there is an appropriate mix of fire extinguishers, sprinklers, fire hoses and blankets
  • fire equipment must be free from obstruction (almost every workplace I visit fails this requirement)
  • fire extinguishers must be clearly marked stating what they can be used for
  • all fire equipment must be regularly tested and tagged by a competent person
  • there is a mechanism, such as siren or a bell for alerting everyone in the workplace in the event of an emergency
  • fire doors do not have deadlocks, bolts or padlocks
  • emergency lighting is installed and working (again something that is often missed)
  • travel paths to exists are clear
  • all doors on the escape route can be opened by a single-handed downward action without a key from the side that faces a person exiting the building
  • a building emergency/evacuation response plan (BERP) identifying all the emergency contact people, including trained first aid personnel with phone numbers is prominently displayed in all work areas

Bush fire danger

If your business is located in a bushfire danger area, have you reviewed your existing fire risk controls to ensure they will be effective in bushfire danger conditions?

  • safe exit routes (ie which roads are open and closed)
  • the closest designated “safe place”
  • consistency with the evacuation procedures of the relevant local authorities (eg Rural Fire Service and  police)
  • worker access to reliable communication equipment

Train your workers

It's no good having an emergency plan, if you workers don't know about it, or are not trained in how to manage an emergency. As a starting point, your workers need to know:

Finally test and review your procedures regularly and conduct regular evacuation drills.

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