Fire drills in the workplace

Under the Safety, Health & Welfare at Work Act 2005 all employers must identify hazards, assess risks and have a written risk assessment, including any unusual or other risks.

Emergency procedures must also be in place and practiced to ensure safe evacuation in the event of a fire. You must prepare and revise adequate emergency plans and procedures and provide any necessary measures for firefighting and the evacuation of the workplace.

So to make sure you comply with your health & safety obligations, you must carry out a regular fire drill.

Health & safety in the workplace

The Workplace Chapter of the Safety, Health & Welfare at Work (General Application) Regulations 2007 includes detailed fire safety requirements.

These requirements apply for instance to doors and gates, emergency routes and exits, fire detection, firefighting and ensuring the safety of employees with disabilities.

As part of your obligations under health & safety, carry out fire drills regularly to ensure emergency exits are passable.

Escape routes must be clear of all obstructions and at least one metre wide. The escape route should lead to a place of safety that's typically outside and away from the building. Doors on escape routes must always be accessible for evacuation without the use of a key.

The importance of fire drills

To make sure all these emergency procedures are safe, it's vital to carry out regular fire evacuation drills.

An emergency plan in the event of fire should include instruction and fire drill training for employees.

You must take account not only of the people in the workplace (employees or otherwise) but also any people who may need assistance to escape, e.g. a care home, for instance, will need to include planning for evacuating residents. Factor these considerations into fire drill procedures in the workplace.

A workplace evacuation in case of fire generally involves all occupants of the premises reacting to the warning signal or fire alarm. A routine fire drill at work involves all occupants making their way through the correct route of evacuation to a place of safety away from the workplace.

An evacuation drill will normally be initiated by the sounding of the general alarm over the fire warning system.

Emergency routines

Use fire drills in the workplace should regularly to practice using them as part of emergency routines.

Failing to carry out regular fire drill practice exposes your business to serious health & safety risks.

Health & safety risks

Breaching almost any aspect of health & safety legislation is potentially a criminal offence.

Directors and senior management of company employers may face not only to criminal prosecutions against their companies but also against them personally as individuals.

The penalties for directors and other company officers include criminal convictions, fines of up to €3 million per charge and/or 2 years’ imprisonment.

It's hard to see how any business could recover from the adverse publicity and reputational damage of a serious health & safety prosecution.

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