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Fire, Safety & Security
With QCS’s Leah Cooke and Chris Walker, Napthens’ Head of Health & Safety
It has taken a long time – but in May after the Fire Safety Bill received Royal Assent, The Fire Safety Act 2021 became law. The big question is what will the changes mean for care providers? While in the short term – the Bill, which was rubber stamped by the Queen in May, is unlikely to herald wholesale changes for care providers right away, but it could have a significant impact on the care sector in the long term.
Chris Walker, Head of Health & Safety at Napthens, who provides the latest H&S advice to QCS customers, explains, “The new fire safety laws won’t call upon care providers to make wholesale changes to their fire safety assessment policies and procedures. Ultimately the Fire Safety Act 2021 provides provision for a technical amendment to the existing fire safety legislation. So, effectively care homes and other premises within the sector are already covered by the exiting legislation.”
But, that said Mr Walker is keen to point out some small changes. “If a building contains two or more sets of domestic premises, the Fire Safety Order will apply to the building structure, its external walls and common parts, which include all doors, which join domestic premises,” he explains.
Secondary legislation might mean more fire safety measure for care homes
Mr Walker, who is a graduate member of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), adds, “In the future, the Bill is likely to generate secondary legislation, which in certain circumstances might mean more fire safety measures. Until this legislation is published, however, it is impossible to forecast or predict what these changes are likely to be and how they will affect care providers. At the very least, care providers should expect increased scrutiny of their current fire safety arrangements and measures taken to comply with the law as its stands.”
In addition to keeping a watchful eye on legislation and having the agility to adjust their policies and procedures in good time to seamlessly meet the required standards, Mr Walker’s key message to care providers is “to check that current arrangements that they have in place conform to current regulations”.
So, what specific checks should Registered Managers carry out? Mr Walker says, “Duty holders should take no shortcuts. They need to check and examine every single aspect of their fire safety protocols. Have they properly implemented all of their existing policies and procedures? Have they ensured that competent advice has been sought and that a Fire Risk
Assessment has been successfully completed by someone with the necessary knowledge, skills and experience to do so? Have they closed out all action-points? Are they maintaining their equipment? The risk of not doing not only puts staff and service users at immediate risk, but if the foundations have not been firmly laid, it will make it much harder for providers to make fundamental changes in the future should they be required.”
How Registered Managers can ensure they remain up-to-date
But how do busy Registered Managers keep abreast of the latest legislation, and most crucially, ensure that it becomes deeply embedded in Care Home Policies and Procedures" target="_blank" class="glsw"> care home policies and procedures ? They could take on the responsibility of tracking and implementing important updates themselves, but what if they forget, or cannot find the time to cascade the policy changes down to their frontline staff? A stress-free alternative would be to employ a team of policy writers, but for many providers with stretched budgets, that is simply out of the question. If it isn’t an option, however, why not follow in the footsteps of 100,000 providers, who use Quality Compliance Systems’ content platform? At QCS, the leading provider of content, guidance and standards for the social care sector, we work with experts like Chris to ensure that our customers never miss a policy update.
Supplying them with the latest best practice content is vital too. So, what fire, safety and security guidance could social care providers benefit from most? Leah Cooke, QCS’s Content Operations Manager, who has been a registered nurse for the last 20 years, says that “a rigorous set of policies and procedures, which encompass both national and local regulations, must be complemented by a robust risk assessment framework”.
“It’s not enough to follow blanket fire safety guidelines because the care home environment is constantly changing as are the individual needs of the people who live there. The challenge for Registered Managers and staff is to constantly risk assess the physical, mental and emotional capabilities of service users against the risk of fire. Every person has different requirements and these must be reflected in the fire safety assessment process. If person A, for example, has developed mobility issues and requires a wheel chair, how will it affect their evacuation in the event of a fire? How will staff support them? Outstanding homes will incorporate this thinking into care reviews. To really affect change, it must become part of the culture of a care home to think holistically.”
Fire checks and inspections should always factor in service users
Take mandatory fire safety checks or inspections, for instance. With 70 percent of service users living with dementia or some form of memory loss, Mrs Cooke says that it is imperative that they always take into account people’s human rights.
She explains, “When a fire alarm goes off in care home it can trigger heightened confusion, stress and panic in those living with dementia. It may also dredge up painful memories of the past. Care professionals need to provide reassurance paying particular attention to those who might be vulnerable to sudden changes or those who might respond negatively to a fire alarm. Therefore, as well as conducting professionals fire testing, care staff need to have an in-depth
understanding of their service users and should be acutely attuned to their every need. This should be formally recorded in care plans.”
Unique challenges for home care providers
For domiciliary care providers, despite being bound by the same regulation, there are unique and nuanced challenges to negotiate too. “While robust fire safety checklists should constantly be updated, every home care setting is different and each one throw up scenarios which need to evaluated on an individual basis.
She continues, “Take a disabled service user who lives in an apartment for instance. Local authority risks state that their stair lift is a fire safety hazard and so it is removed, However, in doing so, the service users feels that their human rights and liberty have been breached as they are now effectively become a prisoner in their own home. Best practice in this case, therefore, might come in the form of co-production and co-designed services. If, for example, the home care provider had good contacts with the local authority’s fire safety team and also the local authority, a solution could be found enabling the service user to maintain their independence without his home breaching standards.”
This example illustrates the importance of person-centred care. Equipped with expert advice, best practice content and up-to-date guidance tools, providers can be confident that they are adhering to the latest fire safety standards too.
Quality Compliance Systems (QCS) is a leading provider of content, guidance and standards for the social care sector. If you wish to find out more about QCS, why not contact QCS’s compliance advisors on 0333-405-3333 or email [email protected]?
We're currently looking for a Head of Social Care here in QCS to define and implement our social care content strategy as well as leading the Content and Policy teams. Find out more here
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