Fire safety legislation requires the establishment of procedures for serious and imminent danger and the provision and maintenance of suitable means of escape. To implement these procedures, the responsible person or duty holder must appoint a sufficient number of competent persons to assist in the evacuation of occupiers.
Employers must ensure occupiers are aware of the fire evacuation procedures, including location of fire exits and assembly points. Those who may require additional support and assistance when evacuating should be identified and specific plans developed for them. Fire exits and emergency routes must be properly marked with signs and, where necessary, adequate emergency escape lighting.
It is the duty of the responsible person/duty holder/appropriate person to ensure that there are sufficient numbers of escape routes to enable occupiers to reach a place of reasonable or total safety. Each employee should be aware of the action to take in the event of fire and the recommended evacuation policies. Assembly points outside the building should be indicated clearly.
These points should have been selected in consultation with the fire authority (where necessary) and routes to them signposted with appropriate notices. Systems for providing relevant information to the fire and rescue services should be developed.
The following duties are imposed on the responsible person/duty holder/appropriate person by the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
The responsible/appropriate person or duty holder must, where necessary, safeguard the safety of relevant persons by ensuring that:
• Routes to emergency exits from premises and the exits themselves are kept clear at all times
• Emergency routes and exits lead as directly as possible to a place of safety
• In the event of danger, it is possible for persons to evacuate the premises as quickly and as safely as possible
• The number, distribution and dimensions of emergency routes and exits are adequate with regard to the use, equipment and dimensions of the premises and the maximum number of persons who may be present there at any one time
• Emergency doors open in the direction of escape
• Sliding or revolving doors are not used for exits specifically intended as emergency exits
• Emergency doors are not locked or fastened that they cannot be easily and immediately opened by any person who may require to use them in an emergency
• Emergency routes and exits are indicated by signs
• Emergency routes and exits requiring illumination are provided with emergency lighting of adequate intensity if their normal lighting fails
Under the relevant fire safety legislation, the responsible/appropriate person or duty holder must also:
• Establish and, where necessary, give effect to appropriate procedures, including safety drills, to be followed in the event of serious and imminent danger
• Nominate a sufficient number of competent persons to implement those procedures in so far as they relate to the evacuation of relevant persons from the premises
• Ensure that any persons exposed to serious and imminent danger are informed of the nature of the hazard and of the steps to be taken to protect them from further danger; the procedures must enable the persons concerned to stop work and immediately proceed to a place of safety in the event of their being exposed to serious, imminent and unavoidable danger
It is important to safeguard the safety of relevant persons arising from an accident, incident or emergency related to the presence of a dangerous substance in or on the premises, by ensuring that:
• Information on emergency arrangements is available
• Suitable warning and other communication systems are established to enable an appropriate response
• Where necessary, before any explosion conditions are reached, visual or audible warnings are given and relevant persons withdrawn
• Where necessary, escape facilities are provided and maintained
• Information is made available to relevant accident and emergency services to enable those services, whether internal or external to the premises, to prepare their own response procedures and precautionary measures
• Immediate steps are taken to mitigate the effects of the fire, restore the situation to normal and inform those relevant persons who may be affected.
The various UK Building Regulations cover the means of escape and require that:
• Buildings should be designed and constructed so that there are appropriate provisions for the early warning of fire and appropriate means of escape in case of fire
• There be a means of escape from the building to a place of safety outside the building; this designated place should be capable of being safely and effectively used at all material times.
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