Fire and emergency planning
NOSA, the global supplier of occupational and health risk management services, now offers innovations and services in fire risk management. SHEQ MANAGEMENT investigates
An emergency or disaster can strike at any time and anywhere, even in the workplace. Although South Africa may not be prone to natural disasters like earthquakes and tornadoes, fires are a reality that businesses in all countries, including ours, have to be prepared for.
According to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) in the United States of America, the best way to protect your business and your employees is to prepare to respond to an emergency before it happens. Few people can think clearly and logically in a crisis, so it is important to do so in advance, when you have time to be thorough.
This preparation involves having a well-thought-out emergency action plan. “An emergency action plan covers designated actions that employers and employees must undertake to ensure employee safety from fire and other emergencies,” says OSHA.
Putting together a comprehensive emergency action plan, that deals with all types of issues specific to your worksite, doesn’t have to be a difficult task. Companies that offer occupational risk management services will often be able to assist with fire and emergency planning and procedures.
NOSA offers fire risk management services to all business sectors. According to the company, the main objective of these services is to assist clients with limiting fire hazards in the workplace, while, at the same time, ensuring that the client is prepared for any emergency situation that may arise.
One of the services NOSA offers is the development of an emergency and evacuation plan. Jeandre Pitout, fire risk expert and consultant at NOSA, explains the procedure for setting up an emergency plan: “Should a client enquire about the emergency plan development service, they will receive a questionnaire in which they can indicate, in short, what their business operations are, how many employees are on site and the size of the property.”
NOSA recommends that clients first do a fire risk assessment, to ensure that all the necessary legal requirements are met, before a physical evacuation floor plan is developed. This is to ensure that there are no problems: for example, the incorrect positioning of fire extinguishers, as this could be incorrectly reflected on the emergency evacuation floor plans.
According to the company, its fire risk assessments comprise the identification and assessment of fire hazards and risks, based on the client’s specific risk profile and unique work environment.
NOSA’s risk assessment methodology includes: ascertaining the size, nature and extent of the operations, and identifying high-risk fire exposures for further evaluation in terms of standards, regulations and minimum legislative requirements.
A risk profile, in terms of environmental, health and safety exposures, which includes potential loss related to fire, is also drawn up. “All aspects of fire prevention and protection are covered during the assessment and particular attention is given to the allocation of responsibilities and enforcing and compliance to procedures.”
Pitout says that one of NOSA’s emergency evacuation floor-plan drawing experts will go to the client’s site and undertake a site inspection, after which the plans are developed and printed in A3 size format and laminated.
“After the emergency evacuation floor plan has been developed, a meeting will be scheduled with the client to discuss the requirements of the site-specific emergency plan and procedures, as well as a hazard and risk identification for all possible emergency scenarios. Information is then exchanged and the emergency plan is developed,” he continues.
NOSA also offers Basic Fire Awareness and Evacuation Awareness training for clients to help them ensure that their employees are trained in basic fire prevention/safety/extinguisher handling and evacuation procedures.
The topics covered in the basic fire awareness training course include: fire terminology, types of firefighting equipment, extinguishers, the dangers of fires, fire spread, fire-prevention goals, safe firefighting and legal requirements.
Some of the topics covered by the evacuation awareness training and evacuation drills include: purpose and scope of the plan, when a building should be evacuated, rules and procedures and a fire post-mortem.