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Fire safety in the workplace

A health and safety Consultant muses after reviewing a clients Fire Evacuation practice

Tips for others:

I thought that I would put down some of my thoughts and tips that might be useful following my recent experience gained from reviewing a fire

evacuation practice that was carried out by an International Bank at their UK headquarters.

I, and three other members of Safetyboss’s consultancy team, were asked to attend, observe and report back on a fire evacuation practice which was being carried out in a 7-storey office building and would involve a complete evacuation of the building.

Our role was merely to look, consider and report back on how it went, but not to conduct the fire evacuation itself, which was to be carried out by the Bank’s own staff.

Preparation and planning

Any consultant/organisation asked to undertake a similar task needs to ensure that they have done sufficient research prior to the event:

- Obtain a copy of the company’s fire evacuation plan and procedures including any building layouts so that you and your team have a clear understanding of what is supposed to happen, understand the structure of the building including fire escape routes and final external assembly points – read it in advance not at the last minute!

- Refresh you and your team’s knowledge of current fire legislation and guidance including any updates (especially in respect of new guidance following the Grenfell inquiry, particularly for high rise buildings).

- Ensure any equipment to be used (such as mobile phones incorporating electronic stopwatch) are fully charged.

- Have a clear plan as to how you all will conduct the observation and where each team member will be positioned and what each person is expected to do.

- On the day arrive early so that, with the client’s agreement, you can have an on-site briefing and walk through the building layout to understand evacuation routes etc.

Behaviour - Human Factors

No matter what, on the day, human factors will undoubtedly play a part:

- People forget what to do unless it is frequently re-enforced with regular refresher training (they tend to follow their neighbour)

- People generally follow the exit route/stairs that they use daily even if other fire escape routes exist which can lead to ‘blockages.’

- Senior managers often do not want/believe that a fire evacuation practice involves them (good safety culture starts from the top and must include a ‘buy-in’ from senior management).

- Currently, it is likely due to ‘working from home’ that far fewer people will be in a building or experience a fire evacuation drill so this needs to be factored into any written procedures.


I hope that these musings can help in some practical way.

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Marian Randell CMIOSH

Director, Safetyboss

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