Training is key to fire safety

Training is an important issue in many industries but in one where life safety is a consideration, particularly so says the Fire Industry Association (FIA).

For anybody looking for training in fire safety, the focus should be on the respective standards that underpin and regulate the industry. Included in these are fire detection and alarm systems (BS 5839); portable fire extinguishers (BS 5306); fixed extinguishing systems (BS 6266) and emergency lighting (BS 5266).

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 in England and Wales (and similar legislation in Scotland and Northern Ireland) places the onus firmly on the ‘responsible person’ for a business to assess and manage fire safety. In addition, all fire precautions provided should be subject to maintenance and be installed and maintained by a ‘competent person’.

Training is an essential part of the competency process. Qualifications recognised by those that operate within the fire industry not only provide peace of mind for the end user but also the means to provide a method of proving that a competent person was employed, should such proof be required.

Fire extinguisher maintenance is a good example to take in highlighting the dangers of not employing well trained engineers who are well versed in their roles. This is a market which is often targeted by less scrupulous companies who set up trading as an extinguisher installer or maintenance company with a couple of employees who simply have a credit account with a supplier or distributor, or a Visa card to buy products from the internet. There is no requirement for the company or its employees to have or prove any qualifications, competence or knowledge. However, in the wrong hands, fire extinguisher maintenance can be dangerous as they are pressurised vessels that could seriously injure their operator or other people in the event of a malfunction that has been brought about by flawed or inadequate maintenance.

When you turn to fire detection and alarm systems or fixed extinguishing systems which are quite obviously more complex than portable extinguishers, the need for training and competence should be all too clear.

There are many organisations that offer fire safety training in the UK, including the Fire Industry Association (FIA) which has recently moved into new premises with a dedicated training facility for up to 100 people. The FIA offers a full range of courses covering all of the standards referred to, including a refresher course for portable fire extinguisher maintenance. The FIA is also the only approved training provider for F-Gas Fluorinated Greenhouses Gases (F-Gas) fire systems – as stated in the Fluorinated Greenhouses Gases Regulations 2009.

In addition, the FIA has added new training modules for its 2010 courses. The ‘Introduction to fire’ module offers delegates a back-to-basics instruction on fire, fire safety systems and the fire industry. Another module on ‘Electrical competency’ provides fire alarm technicians/engineers with the knowledge to enable them to work safely on fire alarm systems.

From 6 April of this year new legislation came into force through which employees with more than six months continuous service within an organisation of 250-plus employees have the legal right to request training that will help them to be more productive and effective at work. However, most foresighted companies understand the value of training a workforce and will always ensure that they have professionally trained personnel.

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