The Importance of Workplace Fire Drills – RMG Fire Safety Week

The Importance of Workplace Fire Drills – RMG Fire Safety Week

To: All Branches with RM Members 

Dear Colleagues,

What is a fire drill and why are they necessary?

A fire drill is a simulated emergency procedure which aims to emulate the processes which would be undertaken in the event of a fire or other similar emergency. It involves creating a situation which replicates what would happen if a real fire were to occur, with the inclusion of fire alarms, and requires all employees, and anyone else who may be within the property at the time, e.g. visitors, customers, contractors to evacuate.

Fire drills are an important part of workplace fire safety procedures for many reasons. Preparation is the key to effective response to workplace fires. Fire drills help ensure that the workforce responds quickly, calmly and safely and that all staff, customers and visitors to the premises understand what they need to do if there is a fire. They also help to test how effective the fire evacuation plan is and are used to improve certain aspects of fire provisions. Along with fire alarms, fire exits, fire doors, fire extinguishers and fire safety signs, Fire Drills are an indirect, but equally significant, form of fire protection and aim to protect everyone who works within a Workplace building from the devastating consequences of fire.

As well as testing that the fire alarms are working, carrying out a full fire drill will help to check other equipment such as fire doors, which are used when a fire alarm sounds. Checking that Emergency Lighting works effectively can also be carried out during the fire drill. If there are problems or weaknesses discovered with the emergency evacuation plans then the Person in Control (PiC), along with the Management team, Safety, Health and Environment (SHE) Team, in consultation with Union Health and Safety Reps can work together to improve it. Additionally, immediate steps can be taken to rectify any problems with the building’s equipment, getting it fully checked out, repaired or replaced. If it’s found that Fire exits and routes are blocked, or too narrow for employees to quickly escape, remedial action can be taken.

Fire Drills can often be viewed as an inconvenience by Managers and the Workforce alike. Not only do they disrupt the day and distract from valuable working time, they can also be perceived as a nuisance to staff and are often greeted with distain so it’s important to communicate the value and reasons for Fire Drills and that, in a real life situation, not knowing what to do may be putting their lives in danger.

The intention is to make an evacuation in the event of a fire as simple, efficient and effective as possible, it involves running employees through the evacuation procedures, ensuring they are familiar with the plan and are able to get out quickly and safely. It is also intended to make sure relevant fire wardens know exactly what they are doing and can assist if their support is ever really needed.

Fire Drill Frequency

In Royal Mail Group there will be a minimum of one Fire Drill or (Fire Evacuation Practice) per year, per shift in each operational building.

If a Unit Manager, in consultation with the RMG SHE Team and Union Health and Safety Reps decides to carry out further Fire Drills, more frequently than above, for operational of risk assessment reasons within the Office, e.g. due to the number of staff, size of the building, diversity of operations, joint user sites or other complexities, this is acceptable to RMG.

Who is responsible for a fire drill and how often should be they undertaken?

According to Fire Safety Laws in the UK, the person responsible for all aspects of fire safety in commercial and non-domestic premises is the owner, occupier or manager. Legislation refers to this person as the responsible person’ (Person in Control – PiC) and, as such, they are in charge of ensuring all fire safety regulations, as required by law and enforced by local fire and rescue authorities, are fully complied with.

The PiC, as the responsible person’ has a number of duties, including planning for an emergency and providing staff with information, fire safety instruction and training. Therefore, they must make sure regular fire drills are carried out and conducted effectively, putting into place any remedial actions which must be taken as a result of the drill’s evaluation.

In order to fulfill the legal obligations, and in accordance with fire safety regulations, fire drills should be conducted at least once a year (more often in environments such as schools and nurseries and high risk workplaces) and the results should be recorded and kept as part of the fire safety and evacuation plan. Additionally, all new staff should be informed of the fire evacuation procedures as soon as they start work and if a new fire risk is ever noted or recognised all employees should be informed.

Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005

In the United Kingdom fire safety was covered by about seventy pieces of fire safety legislation, the principal ones being the Fire Precautions Act 1971 and the Fire Precautions (Workplace) Regulations 1997/1999. In 2001 it was therefore decided the legislation needed to be to simplified. This was achieved with:-

  • England and Wales – the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
  • Scotland – the Fire Safety (Scotland) Regulations 2006.
  • Northern Ireland – the Fire Safety Regulations (Northern Ireland) were introduced in 2010.

[Note: The contents of this LTB have been agreed by the Royal Mail Group Property and Facilities Solutions National Fire Risk Manager]

Yours sincerely

Dave Joyce
National Health, Safety & Environment Office

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