Staff Training and Instruction

The following information may give you guidance under Article 21 of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. It is without prejudice to anything which may be required by an enforcing authority.

All staff and the employers of other people working in your premises should be given information and instruction as soon as possible after they are appointed and regularly after that. Make sure you include staff who work outside normal working hours, such as contract cleaners or maintenance staff. The information and instructions you give must be in a form that can be used and understood. They should take account of those with disabilities such as hearing or sight impairment, those with learning difficulties and those who do not use English as their first language.
Training is necessary:

  • when staff start employment or are transferred into the premises;
  • when changes have been made to the emergency plan and the preventive and protective measures;
  • where working practices and processes or people’s responsibilities change;
  • to take account of any changed risks to the safety of staff or other relevant persons;
  • to ensure that staff know what they have to do to safeguard themselves and others on the premises;
  • where staff are expected to assist disabled persons; and
  • if a member of staff may take on the role of duty manager.

Training should be repeated as often as necessary (recommended to be annually) and should take place during working hours.

Whatever training you decide is necessary to support your fire safety strategy and emergency plan, it should be verifiable.

The enforcing Authority may want to examine records as evidence that adequate training has been given.

Fire Safety Training

You must provide adequate fire safety training for your staff. The type of training should be based on the particular features of your premises and your emergency plan including:

  • taking into account of the findings of the fire risk assessment;
  • explaining your emergency procedures;
  • taking account of the work activity and explain the duties and responsibilities of staff;
  • taking place during normal working hours and be repeated periodically where appropriate;
  • being easily understandable by your staff and other people who may be present; and
  • being tested by fire drills.

In small premises this may be no more than showing new staff the fire exits and giving basic training on what to do if there is a fire. In larger premises the organisation of fire safety training will need to be planned.

Your staff training should include the following:

  • what to do on discovering a fire;
  • how to raise the alarm and what happens then;
  • what to do upon hearing the fire alarm;
  • the procedures for alerting members of the public and visitors including, where appropriate, directing them to exits;
  • the arrangements for calling the fire and rescue service;
  • the evacuation procedures for everyone in your office or shop to reach an assembly point at a place of total safety;
  • the location and, when appropriate, the use of firefighting equipment;
  • the location of escape routes, especially those not in regular use;
  • how to open all emergency exit doors;
  • the importance of keeping fire doors closed to prevent the spread of fire, heat and smoke;
  • where appropriate, how to stop machines and processes and isolate power supplies in the event of a fire;
  • the reason for not using lifts (except those specifically installed or nominated, following a suitable fire risk assessment, for the evacuation of people with a disability);
  • the safe use of and risks from storing or working with highly flammable and explosive substances; and
  • the importance of general fire safety, which includes good housekeeping and the importance of fire doors and other basic fire-prevention measures;

All the staff identified in your emergency plan that have a supervisory role if there is a fire (e.g. heads of department, fire marshals or wardens and, in larger offices and shops, fire parties or teams), should be given details of your fire risk assessment and receive additional training.

Fire Marshals / Fire Wardens

Staff expected to undertake the role of fire marshals (often called fire wardens) would require more comprehensive training. Their role may include:

  • helping those on the premises to leave;
  • checking the premises to ensure everyone has left;
  • using fire fighting equipment if safe to do so;
  • liaising with the fire and rescue service on arrival;
  • shutting down vital or dangerous equipment; and
  • performing a supervisory/managing role in any fire situation.

Training for this role may include:

  • detailed knowledge of the fire safety strategy of the premises;
  • awareness of human behaviour in fires;
  • how to encourage others to use the most appropriate escape route;
  • how to search safely and recognise areas that are unsafe to enter;
  • the difficulties that some people, particularly if disabled, may have in escaping and any special evacuation arrangements that have been pre-planned;
  • additional training in the use of firefighting equipment;
  • an understanding of the purpose of any fixed firefighting equipment such as sprinklers or gas flooding systems; and
  • reporting of faults, incidents and near misses.

Fire Drills

Once the emergency plan has been developed and training given, you will need to evaluate its effectiveness. The best way to do this is to perform a fire drill. This should be carried out at least annually or as determined by your fire risk assessment. If you have a high staff turnover, you may need to carry them out more often.
A well-planned and executed fire drill will confirm understanding of the training and provide helpful information for future training. The responsible person should determine the possible objectives of the drill such as to:

  • identify any weaknesses in the evacuation strategy;
  • test the procedure following any recent alteration or changes to working practices;
  • familiarise new members of staff with procedures; and
  • test the arrangements for disabled people.

Who Should Take Part?

Within each building the evacuation should be for all occupants except those who may need to ensure the security of the premises, or people who, on a risk-assessed basis, are required to remain with particular equipment or processes that cannot be closed down.

Premises that consist of several buildings on the same site should be dealt with one building at a time over an appropriate period unless the emergency procedure dictates otherwise. Where appropriate, you may find it helpful to include members of the public in your fire drill ensuring that all necessary health and safety issues are addressed before you do so.

Carrying Out the Drill

For premises that have more than one escape route, the escape plan should be designed to evacuate all people on the assumption that one exit or stairway is unavailable because of the fire. This could be simulated by a designated person being located at a suitable point on an exit route. Applying this scenario to different escape routes at each fire drill will encourage individuals to use alternative escape routes which they may not normally use.

The Roll Call / Checking the Premises Have Been Evacuated

Where possible, you should ensure that a roll call is carried out as soon as possible at the designated assembly point(s), and/or receive reports from wardens designated to ‘sweep’ the premises. You should note any people who are unaccounted for. In a real evacuation this information will need to be passed to the fire and rescue service on arrival.

Check that people have assembled at the evacuation point

Once the roll call is complete or all reports have been received, allow people to return to the building. If the fire-warning system is monitored inform the alarm receiving centre that the drill has now been completed and record the outcomes of the drill. Later, reports from fire wardens and observations from people should be collated and reviewed. Any conclusions and remedial actions should be recorded and implemented.

Monitoring and Debrief

Throughout the drill the responsible person and nominated observers should pay particular attention to:

  • communication difficulties with regard to the roll call and establishing that everyone is accounted for;
  • the use of the nearest available escape routes as opposed to common circulation routes;
  • difficulties with the opening of final exit doors;
  • difficulties experienced by people with disabilities;
  • the roles of specified people, e.g. fire wardens;
  • inappropriate actions, e.g. stopping to collect personal items, attempting to use lifts etc.; and
  • windows and doors not being closed as people leave.

On-the-spot debriefs are useful to discuss the fire drill, encouraging feedback from everybody. Later, reports from fire wardens and observations from people should be collated and reviewed. Any conclusions and remedial actions should be recorded and implemented.

A sample staff training programme and training record proforma can be downloaded by following the links below.