Do you have the right processes and procedures in place to prevent a disaster? Laura West shares her advice on best practice…
Fire is a serious matter for nurseries – remember, the EYFS states, “Providers must take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of children, staff and others on the premises in the case of fire or any other emergency, and must have an emergency evacuation procedure.”
It is the duty of the ‘Responsible Person’ to ensure the safety of employees and other relevant persons. This role should be taken very seriously, as failure to do so could result in you being liable.
The Responsible Person is the employer and/or building owner or occupier; he/she must ensure that a fire risk assessment (FRA) is carried out and keep it up-to-date. I recommend that it’s completed by a professional fire risk assessor.
The FRA will identify what potentially could start a fire and who may be a risk; you can then take appropriate action. The big question to consider is whether you can avoid the risk altogether. If you can’t, you must try to reduce the risk, e.g. by separating sources of fuel from ignition sources.
Think about where you keep items within your nursery. Is bedding stored near sources of heat or too close to electric outlets? How many electrical items do you have plugged into electrical sockets; are they overloaded? Is your tumble dryer filter full of lint? Good housekeeping is an essential part of fire prevention management.
If a fire was to start, could all adults and children get out safely? As the employer you must ensure that appropriate safety measures are in place to minimise the risk of injury or loss of life.
Do you have adequate fire detection? This generally is a combination of both smoke and heat sensors. It’s essential to detect a fire and raise the alarm as fast as possible. Once you have this equipment, make sure it works by checking each call point regularly. I recommend testing your alarm system weekly, but it should be inspected by a competent person at least twice a year. Other fire safety checks should include a daily walk of the premises, and a monthly inspection to ensure that all fire exits and ‘means of escape’ have clear access at all times, and that all emergency lighting is working. Fire extinguishers should also be checked monthly, but must also be inspected and certificated yearly by a fire protection equipment company. All these checks should be recorded in your fire log book.
It’s important that everyone has appropriate training on procedures they need to follow, including fire drills. I recommend that drills are completed at least once a quarter and should be carried out on different days and times, so that all staff and children can practise what to do and which route to take in the event of fire. Consider equipment that could assist in evacuating young children quickly, e.g. evacuation cots.
Remember that it is a requirement under The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety Order 2005) to provide staff with fire safety training. The training needs to be provided on induction and periodically following this, and a record of the training needs to be kept.
A fire needs three things to start:
● a source of Ignition (heaters, naked flame, etc.);
● a source of Fuel (something that will burn, e.g. paper, cardboard, etc.); and
Remove any one of these elements from the ‘fire triangle’ and you will prevent a fire starting.
Laura West is the childcare health & safety specialist at MCW Nursery Support Services – a family-run business specialising in the streamlining of health & safety and auditing processes in the childcare industry.