Is your workplace prepared for what to do in the event of a fire? Do you know what fire safety items your workplace should be equipped with and how to use them?
Fire is a potential hazard for every business workplace. As a business owner or workplace manager, it’s your responsibility to ensure that you have the correct fire safety equipment on site to protect your business from fire under the Australian Fire Safety Standard AS 1851-2102 and that your employees know what to do in the event of a fire occurring.
Here’s what you need to know.
How do you know what equipment you need?
It’s important to enlist the services of a fire protection specialist to assess your business, as they will be able to advise exactly what equipment you need to be compliant with the fire safety standards. However, the common fire safety equipment that you should have in your business includes:
Portable fire extinguishers.
Portable fire extinguishers are a must for any business. Over 90% of all fires are first extinguished using a portable fire extinguisher. Fire extinguishers should be mounted on the wall in a prominent position with adequate approved signage indicating the location of the extinguisher.
Fire blankets are essential if you have a domestic or commercial kitchen on your premises. They are particularly effective for liquid or clothing fires. Your fire blanket should be located somewhere close to the kitchen where it can be easily accessed in an emergency. If your fire blanket is used to smother a fire, no matter how small, it should always be checked to ensure that it can still be used and doesn’t need to be replaced.
Fire hose reels.
Fire hose reels are required in any building that has fire hydrants. They are normally placed in the common areas of the building and can be operated by any member of the public. If you are responsible for the common areas of your building, or for an area where a fire hose reel is located, then you need to ensure that it is regularly maintained and tested.
Domestic smoke detectors and automatic fire sprinkler systems.
Your business needs to have an early fire warning system in place. In some buildings there are automatic fire sprinkler systems and fire alarms, but in smaller buildings without this infrastructure, you need to ensure that you have compliant smoke detectors at a minimum.
Smoke detectors and smoke detector testing are governed by the Fire Standards from the BCA (Building Code of Australia). Your fire protection specialist will be able to advise what smoke, sprinkler, and alarm systems you need. Jim’s Fire Safety can conduct an assessment of your business and advise what additional equipment you need, where it should be located and how often it needs to be tested. They can also provide the equipment and set up a testing and maintenance schedule for your business so that you can have peace of mind that you have adequately protected yourself, your staff, and your premises against the risk of fire.
Can I check my own fire safety equipment?
You should always be vigilant and check your fire safety equipment for any signs of visible damage. That could include things like noticing that something has been spilled on a fire blanket, or that a sign indicating the location of a fire extinguisher has been graffitied or tampered with, or that a fire extinguisher has been dented or damaged in some way.
However, these visual checks are no replacement for an official fire safety assessment and are not regarded as a compliant inspection and service of your fire protection equipment.
The only exception to this is domestic smoke alarms which you can test yourself. However, domestic smoke alarms should also be checked regularly by a fire specialist. Hard wired smoke alarms can be tested with a push button on the device which checks whether the audible alarm is working correctly. The batteries within the smoke alarm should also be tested every six months. Hard wired smoke alarms rely on electricity for operation, but they have a battery back-up so they can still operate in the case of a power outage.
If you are going to test your smoke detectors yourself, make a note in your diary to test the alarm and change the batteries when the clocks change for daylight saving. That way, you’ll never be caught with a flat battery in your smoke alarm if there’s a fire on the premises.
It is important that your smoke alarm is positioned in the right place within your business so that it can effectively warn people on the premises of impending fire danger. Your fire protection specialist can conduct smoke simulation testing to check that your premises is covered from front to back with the correct number and placement of smoke alarms.
How often does the fire safety equipment in my business need to be checked?
The first step is to get a fire safety assessment completed for your business so that you know that you have the right fire safety equipment on site, that its location is clearly signposted with the correct signage, and that everyone on site knows where to find the equipment and how to use it in an emergency. You should also conduct fire drills every six months with nominated fire wardens.
Once you are in a position where you know your business is compliant with the fire safety regulations, then you should establish a regular testing and inspection routine with your fire safety provider who will be able to advise you on the right testing frequencies for your business.
However, as a general rule of thumb, the Australian Fire Safety Standard (AS 1851-2012) specifies that fire extinguishers, fire blankets and fire hose reels need to be checked every six months with additional servicing requirements on an annual basis for fire extinguishers. If you have automatic fire sprinkler systems in your building, your building manager should be having those systems checked monthly, six monthly and annually with different levels of testing required at each interval.
Who can check my business’s fire safety equipment?
The fire safety equipment in your business needs to be checked by a competent person as defined by the Australian Fire Safety Standard AS 1851-2012. The standard requires that a person checking fire safety equipment has the skills necessary to perform the inspection because they have the required training, qualifications or experience. The requirements for who can conduct inspections and servicing of fire safety equipment can also vary from state to state.
There are a number of companies that specialize in fire safety assessments and the provision and testing or inspection of fire safety equipment. Jim’s Fire Safety offers fire protection assessments of your business including testing and maintenance. They can advise what equipment you should have on your premises, how often it should be tested and provide any equipment and signage that you may require to make your business compliant with the fire safety standards. Phone 13 15 46 for more information.
Jim’s Test & Tag can also organize electrical compliance testing for you in the same visit. Their electrical compliance testing services include testing and tagging of portable electrical appliances as well as safety switch testing and fault loop testing. Don’t forget that ensuring your electrical circuits and appliances are safe to use is an important component of making sure that your business is fire safe as electrical fires are a common cause of fire within the workplace.