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Fire Safety in The Home
Healthcare workers support service users in their home to lead active independent lives. This home environment is also a working environment for the support workers and employers need to consider the different hazards that can exist in a person home. This article will review fire as a potential hazard to support staff.
The employer will need to ensure that they comply with the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 which states:
- Section 2: It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees.
The employer will also need to ensure that they have identified the significant hazards in the home which is a workplace to support staff and record risk assessments. The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, in which, Regulation 3 states that every employer shall make a suitable and sufficient assessment of :
- The risks to the health and safety of his employees to which they are exposed whilst they are at work; and
- The risks to the health and safety of persons not in his employment arising out of or in connection with the conduct by him of his undertaking.
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 places duties on the responsible person within a workplace to undertake a fire risk assessment. Section 9 (1) of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 requires that the responsible person must make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the fire risks to which people are exposed.
The following are some of the areas to review when conducting a fire risk assessment around the home. The fire and rescue services can provide invaluable advice and if requested will visit the home and provide advice on what is required. Most fires can be prevented by following some basic precautions.
- Candle Safety: The use of candles in the home caused up to three fires a day. It is better not to use candles in the home particularly if there are young children or pets in the home. If candles are used then ensure they are used safely by putting them into a candle holder. Ensure they are located in a safe place away from material that can start a fire and on a heat resistant surface. They must be extinguished before leaving the room.
- Smoking: The service user is living at home and may smoke in their own home. The support staff need to be aware of the increase risk of a fire due to the service user smoking in bed or falling asleep whilst watching television.
- Christmas Tree Lights: The use of Christmas tree lights and fairy lights in a home can also present a fire hazard. The lights should not be left on overnight or the bulbs should not be near paper or anything that can heat up and smoulder.
- Smoke Alarms: Installing smoke alarms in the home will help to alert the home owner and others within the home to the presence of smoke. The smoke alarms need to be located in different areas in the home and checked regularly.
- Fire Protection Equipment: A fire blanket in the kitchen can be used to put out chip pan fires. A fire extinguisher can be located also in the home. However the advice from the fire service is if a person encounters a fire to get out of the building and not to tackle a fire.
- Monitoring of Fire Risks: The support worker should be observant and check for any fire safety issues and report them to their manager. Active monitoring will help ensure the safety of the service user and other staff who visit the home.
- Maintenance of Equipment: Electrical faults in equipment used around the home can lead to fires. Before using any equipment staff should visually check the equipment for any obvious visual defects. If there is any doubt about the integrity of the safety of the equipment then it must not be used.
- Escape Routes: The support staff working in the home will need to be aware of the best evacuation route to take in an emergency. A secondary escape route must be considered if the primary route is blocked such as fire on the stairs. It can be difficult reacting to a fire starting at night particularly if there is smoke starting to build as it may be difficult to see through the smoke. The support staff will need to review and consider different escape route scenarios so they are prepared.
- Lift Safety: The service user may live in a flat within a high rise building. The staff must be aware that they do not use lifts in emergencies.
- Ensure that fire safety information is available on the home that staff are working in.
- Provide fire awareness instruction, information and training to all staff.
- Investigate and review all reports of fire risk.
- Report any potential fire incidents.
- Visually check all equipment before using.
- Switch off electrical appliances when not in use.
- Know the escape route out of the flat or house.
QCS have guidance and policies to support your service in meeting the requirements of fire safety.
Sally Beck RGN, BSc (Hons), MSc, CMIOSH – QCS Expert Health and Safety Contributor