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Fire safety has to be one of your top priorities in any business, but when you’re entrusted with young lives, that pressure is even greater. Not only will good fire safety ensure the little ones are kept as safe as possible, but also the staff and visitors.
Over 70% of businesses which have been involved in a major fire either do not reopen or subsequently fail within three years. Once a business has suffered a fire, it can be difficult to recover so it’s best to take action before it’s too late.
That’s why complying with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 is a requirement for all business owners. By not doing so, not only do you risk a hefty fine or a prison sentence, but also lives and livelihoods.
Undertaking a fire risk assessment is the best way forward, and it’s probably easier than you might expect…
The first step is to walk around your nursery making a note of the things which could start a fire (sources of ignition) and can burn (fuel source).
Heaters, cooking equipment, electrical equipment, naked flames, and a lot else besides, could all be the cause of a fire. That is why it’s recommended that gas and electrical equipment are serviced annually to ensure they remain in tip-top condition.
And those items then need to be kept a safe distance away from things such as paper, cardboard, fabric, furniture, rubbish, paints, cleaning products, and other flammable liquids and gases.
Who’s at Risk?
If a fire were to start when your nursery was open, then it’s likely that staff, children, parents, and other visitors could be present. Young children are going to need assistance as they make their way to the nearest fire exit and assembly point.
You will need to prepare for them to need escorting in an emergency, and this is just one reason why there are strict guidelines on the ratio of staff to children.
In addition, you must also consider those with additional needs, such as the disabled and elderly who have mobility issues and will need a helping hand too.
Evaluate and Act
Knowing the risks in the nursery means you can now take action to ensure the appropriate precautions are in place to prepare for, and eliminate, as much as practically possible.
Having a method of fire detection in place, generally with a fire alarm system which will detect and warn throughout the whole premises, is the best course of action, as is installing fire extinguishers.
• Water extinguishers are suitable for general fires including paper, cardboard, rubbish, and furnishings;
• Foam extinguishers can additionally be used for flammable liquids;
• Powder extinguishers are versatile, lighter, and safe to use around electrical equipment as well as flammable liquid and gas. However, they can affect visibility and breathing, so should be mitigated by a health and safety risk assessment if specified for indoor use;
• On electrical equipment, CO2 extinguishers are the safest method and will also prevent further damage to the electronics;
• Fire blankets are ideal for putting out a small pan fire without fuss or mess;
Be sure to also place signs next to extinguishers which advise on their use, as well as signs which direct people through emergency exit routes to emergency exits. These routes may also need emergency lighting and fire doors.
Record, Plan, and Train
Knowing all that you know, you can now put together an effective emergency plan to make clear what everyone should do in the event of a fire in your nursery. Include where people assemble and the route they’ll take, as well as deciding who the fire wardens are and who is going to dial 999.
When choosing fire wardens, pick those whom you can depend on and choose enough to ensure there is always a fire warden present when you’re open for business. When they have been given the correct training, they’ll then help you to promote good fire safety within the business, train other staff members, hold fire drills, and take charge calmly in an emergency.
With the plan in place and everyone aware of what it is, the best way to test that it is effective, and to make people familiar with it, is to hold a fire drill. By carrying this out with the children, it becomes a normal event and may help them to be not as scared in a real emergency.
Hopefully, it will go smoothly, but if it doesn’t then it’s best to find out now before it’s too late to alter it. This should then be carried out regularly, perhaps once every term, to achieve the familiarity.
A fire risk assessment is never finished as it needs to be kept up-to-date with any changes that occur, no matter how minor. That’s why many fire brigades recommend reviewing it at least once a year to ensure it’s accurate.
Carrying out a fire risk assessment yourself, or by another competent person, is relatively easy, although many business owners choose to hire professional risk assessors to complete it for them as it saves time and gives them peace of mind.
To find out more information about fire risk assessments and fire safety equipment, visit www.fireprotectiononline.co.uk.