ARE YOU FIRE SAFETY EDUCATED?
How important is it to complete a fire risk assessment? The Trinidad and Tobago Occupational Safety and Health Act of 2004 as amended in 2006 (OSH ACT); Section 13A, states: Annual Risk Assessment is a requirement of every employer. For the prevention of fire and to become fire safety compliant you have to put systems in place to protect your staff, visitors, customers or occupants from the dangers of fire. Legally it’s a requirement under the OSH ACT, that owner and commercial tenants of premises who are not covered by a current and relevant fire risk assessment can be prosecuted by the enforcing authority (the OSH Agency) where fines of up to $100,000 and/ or imprisonment can be incurred.
IDENTIFING FIRE HAZARDS AND POSSIBLE SOURCE OF IGNITIONS
Potential ignition sources of heat that could get hot enough to ignite material found in the premises, anything that burns is fuel for a fire. Thus our concerned group of seven individuals (“D” ENFORCERS) armed with our new found knowledge of Occupational Safety and Health (OSH), set out to determine what possible risks may pose danger to the students who frequent the Student Activities Centre (SAC) building on a regular basis. Using a risk assessment checklist and a risk rating analysis to conduct a thorough and extensive assessment of the preventative measures, that was put in place, in the event or circumstance of fire. Although the fire hazards were few, we noticed that the NO SMOKING and exits signage were well placed and can be seen by the public. The following pictures raised concern amongst “D” ENFORCERS members on the safety of students who regularly occupy the SAC area, in the event of some kind of hazard, natural or otherwise.
The above picture is evidence of a fire hazard and the risk of being electrocuted.An electrical panel box with exposed electrical wires in an open cabinet is easily accessed and can be tampered with by anyone. This can also lead to sparks that can cause unnecessary fire. Our recommendations to those in authority will be to properly implement locks and doors, to ensure secured defenses are put in place to avoid mishaps from happening. To put the necessary signage to inform students that unauthorized personal is not allowed.
Discolored/charred electrical plugs and sockets which pose eminent danger to students who pass by and uses these plugs for their laptops etc.These outlets need to be properly covered, should in case it comes into contact with water. Sometimes these are overlooked but this is a fire hazard with electricity, water and electrical equipment.
We also observed that in the fire extinguisher cabinets it was empty. Fire extinguishers should be strategically positioned in areas closest to the kitchen areas and open doorways to facilitate easy access in case of a fire. Additionally to our observations, we noticed that no visible fire extinguisher was in the cooking area.
Instructions and signs to use extinguisher and maintenance records should be clearly displayed. We noticed that a fire hose was placed in a corner allowing students to sit in front of it hindering in case of a fire the user has limited access to it. Signage and placement of the fire hoses for easy access in a concealed case, away from students are our recommendations. These hoses should be regularly checked to ensure its working condition and records should be kept.
Also, indisposed used light bulbs were stored next to the cooking areas of the food court as a result of poor housekeeping practice, a clear fire hazard. Also the PA speaker located in an ideal location was not working. This is important since it is used to conduct fire drills and give evacuation information to students.
It was noticed that there wasn’t any visible evacuation plan for students to follow nor any indication of fire drills during the course of this year. Fire can have a devastating impact on human life, and it is therefore vital to make an assessment of those persons at risk if a fire occurs by identifying the number and location of all people who frequent the food court. Also you must take into consideration people who may have difficulty evacuating the premises promptly, such as the elderly, disabled, pregnant people, small children and staff who work alone or anyone who may be in isolated areas for example wash rooms.
PRODUCE AN ACTION PLAN FOR FIRE PREVENTION
- Let’s evaluate firstly the likelihood of a fire starting by conducting a risk assessment. The premises should be critically inspectedand identify any potential hazard that may cause fire accidents, near misses and may be in breach of the OSH ACT.
- Once these risks have been evaluated, controlling or removing them if reasonably practicable is the next step. If the hazards cannot be removed measures to reduce the risk should be done by removing or reducing sources of ignitions or by removing the risk to people from fire by using a fire risk rating where the level of fire safety is measured to the risk posed to the safety of the people on the premises. The higher the fire risk, the higher the standards of fire safety measures is required.
- Having carried out a fire safety risk assessment the findings should be recorded including any action/controlling measures taken. The OSH ACT, Section 26, Fire safety law requires information to be recorded and fire certification is required for the establishment. Also the importance of a proactive approach to occupational safety and health having fully-trained fire wardens as part of an emergency evacuation strategy is seen as important to assist employees who need help in evacuation and fire safety training courses toeducateemployees how to react in an emergency.
- A review of the fire safety risk assessment should be carried out regularly as stated in the OSH ACT and the establishment action plan should be revised considering changes to the establishment premises that have affected the risk assessment or the fire safety measures used.
Please note, if a fire or a ‘near miss’ occurs, this is an indicator that the existing assessment may be inadequate and insufficient. A re-assessment should be carried out identifying the cause of any incident and then review, then revise the outcome of the fire safety risk assessment in light of this experience. The Fire Service findings may help inform a review of the fire safety risk assessment.
- Occupational Safe and Healthy Act, Act of 2004, Amended by 3 of 2006.Ministry of Legal Affairs. Trinidad and Tobago. http://www.legalaffairs.gov.tt