If you are an employer, it is your responsibility to ensure that the correct fire safety procedures are in place. As well as putting your staff at risk, failure to do so could result in a fine of up to £5,000 or a jail sentence of up to two years.
One of the most basic fire safety requirements is to install smoke detectors and fire alarms so if a fire breaks out it can be detected as quickly as possible, alerting staff members and visitors so they are able to exit the building at the earliest possible opportunity.
How many fire alarms does my workplace need?
While there are no hard and fast rules about the exact number of fire alarms needed as each workplace differs, the minimum requirement is to have one smoke detector on each level of the building. Ideally, you will have a fire alarm installed in every room; more than one if the room is particularly large or if there is a particularly high risk of fire, for example in a restaurant or warehouse. Typically, the more people you employ, the more alarms you will need.
As well as fitting alarms throughout the workplace, it is essential you regularly test your alarms and schedule regular drills to ensure your fire alarms are working properly and employees are aware of the protocol should a fire break out.
Fire marshals should be appointed to guide people out of the building and to ensure that your alarms are kept in good working order. You should keep a log of your fire safety procedures, maintenance and drills that are carried out. If your fire alarm is battery-operated, you should change the battery at least once a year, checking it more frequently.
What type of fire alarms do I need?
There are four main types of smoke detector:
- Ionisation alarms are the cheapest. They are very sensitive to small particles of smoke produced by fast-flaming fires but marginally less sensitive to slow-burning fires. Ionisation alarms can be very oversensitive if they are placed in kitchen areas.
- Optical alarms tend to be more expensive but are more effective when it comes to detecting slow-burning fires. Optical alarms can be installed near but not inside kitchens as they are less likely to go off as a result of minor incidents such as burning toast than ionisation alarms.
- Heat alarms detect the increase in temperature from a fire but do not respond to smoke, making them more suitable for installation in kitchens. However, they will only cover a relatively small area, so you may need several if you have a large kitchen area.
- Combined optical smoke and heat alarms combine the benefits of an optical and heat alarm within one unit. This is likely to increase the speed of detection without making the alarm oversensitive.