For premises covered by the Fire Precautions (Workplace) Regulations 1997, the workplace must be equipped with effective means of fire detection and warning where necessary.
A competent person (internal or external) must assist in determining the necessity for fire detection and warning and the extent to which such provisions are appropriate for the workplace.
Necessity For Fire Detection & Warning
In judging the necessity for detectors and alarms, account must be taken of:
- the features of the workplace;
- the activities carried on there;
- any hazards present; and
- any other relevant circumstances.
Appropriateness & Extent of Fire Detection & Warning Provisions
In judging the appropriateness of the extent to which the workplace must be equipped with detectors and alarms, account must be taken of:
- the dimensions and use of the building housing the workplace;
- the equipment it contains;
- the physical and chemical properties of the substances likely to be present; and
- the maximum number of people who may be present at any one time.
Technical Considerations for Fire Detection & Warning Provisions
Detection systems generally required include automatic fire detectors that respond to one or more of the three characteristics of fire: heat, smoke, flame. The siting and selection or combination of detectors requires specialist knowledge. Detection systems may, in some cases, be required to be linked to automatic alarms and even automatic extinguishers. Reliance on human detection is to be avoided.
Alarm systems required may be manual, automatic or a combination. Manual alarms, such as turn-handle rotary gongs, may suit a small, single storey building. However, most workplaces require an electrically operated fire alarm installation. Some of these can also indicate the location of the fire and a few can also summon the fire brigade. With the possible exception of very small workplaces with few employees, reliance on the human voice as an alarm is to be avoided.