Having a fire in any building or estate can be an unnerving experience. There are many reasons why a fire could occur in any social care environment, from an arson attack to a discarded cigarette. In fact, any environment where you have heat, fuel and oxygen is a potential fire. Whilst it is rare in the social care sector, we can never be complacent when it comes to fire and the devastating effects it has. Managers of care homes and other social care environments have a duty of care to all who live, work or visit a care service, to ensure their safety at all times. Fire safety is one that can kill people if not managed effectively.
Whilst most people in the UK were looking forward to Easter, seeing the grandchildren visit or catching up with friends and family, for one care home in Tamworth, the story was not so.
The fire, which started about 11pm on 15 April 2017, is believed to be caused by “poorly discarded smoking material” resulted in 25 residents being evacuated, 7 of which were taken to hospital suffering smoke inhalation.
How do I manage fire safety?
There are a number of ways to effectively manage fire safety in your social care setting as follows:
- Ensure that you maintain good housekeeping by avoiding the build-up of rubbish
- Separating any sources of heate. sparks etc., from combustible materials i.e.: paper, card etc.
- Ensure you have clear access and egress from the building, and exit routes are unobstructed
- Ensure that you have a fire detection system which is fully maintained i.e.: sprinklers, fire alarms, extinguishers etc. Some social care settings are linked to a call centre and emergency services.
- Ensure provision for wheelchair access, safe refuges, evac chairs etc.
- Ensure all furniture and fittings are fire rated i.e.: crib5 – sourced from contract suppliers.
- Ensure that fire doors are maintained, closers work and doors are not left propped open (consider auto-closers linked to the fire system if they need to be frequently opened)
- Have a planned maintenance programme in place for all electrical equipment
- Limit the number of wires and plugs, use cable ties and ensure Portable Appliance Testing (PAT) is routinely carried out
- Ensure all staff are trained in fire awareness, some as fire marshals and routine evacuations are carried out and recorded
- Don’t forget to induct all contracts on site. Visitors (friends and family etc.) also need to be made aware of fire safety
- Carry out a Fire Risk Assessment and review its effectiveness on a regular basis to ensure its effectiveness. Ensure that staff are aware of this and have access to the fire plan
- Ensure you have a visitor’s book or electronic pass so you know who is in your buildings.
This is a general overview. More information can be found on the HSE website and on your QCS page.
Who is responsible for fire safety?
Whilst everyone is responsible for the safety of themselves and others, ultimately fire safety is the responsibility of the home care manager or social care manager and the owner of the service provider under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
Having systems in place to manage fire safety and an open line of communication between staff and management will assist in ensuring those responsible are kept up to date with fire safety provision.
Show me the legislation?
The main piece of legislation is the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. Under section 9(1) this requires that the responsible person must make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the fire risks to which people are exposed.
There is a general duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 section 2 to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all employees. The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 section 3 also requires 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
Health and Safety in Care homes – Chapter 13 (HSG220) Page 61