Today (31 July) marks the 40th anniversary of when the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 (HSWA) received royal assent.
Arguably it is one of the best pieces of legislation on the statute books – although we know it is often misunderstood and misinterpreted. It has protected millions of British workers, and driven sharp reductions in incidents of occupational death, serious injury and ill health.
In 1974, fatalities to employees covered by the legislation in place then stood at 651. The latest figure for 2012/13 was down to 148 for employees and self-employed combined. The actual reduction is probably more than this as data for sectors not covered by health and safety law pre 1974 was not collected. In the same time frame (and with the same caveat) non-fatal injuries have dropped by more than 75 percent. There is still room for improvement clearly, but the change in the last 40 years is quite remarkable.
Before the 1974 Act there was a host of different regulations – some industries swamped with prescriptive rules and others with little or no regulation at all. Much of our current reform agenda is aimed at: stripping out unnecessary or duplicated regulation and helping smaller businesses to understand how to take a proportionate approach to managing their risks – but the basic principles remain the same.
Forty years on the Health and Safety at Work Act has demonstrated it can be applied to new responsibilities and new demands, creating the framework for people to come home safe and well from a day’s work in any sector of the economy.
The legacy is a safety record envied around the world.
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RRO) states that a competent person must have the correct qualifications, training and experience, access to the relevant tools, equipment and information, manuals and knowledge of the special procedures recommended by the manufacturer of the extinguisher. Fire extinguishers must be serviced by the competent person in accordance with British Standard BS5306-3:2009: Code of Practice for the commissioning and maintenance of portable fire extinguishers, which sets out the procedures.
Ensure Correct Fire Extinguisher Maintenance with these 6 Tips
- The mass of the extinguisher must be checked against that recorded on the maintenance label when first put into service or last recharged. Labelling must not obscure the BS EN3 markings or manufacturer’s markings.
- The label must state that maintenance was carried out according to BS5306-3. It must also record the measured mass of the extinguisher at the time of servicing or the difference between the measured mass at the time of service and the mass recorded at commissioning.
- When your extinguisher is recharged, this must be recorded on the label. The words ‘Non-maintained’ can only be used if the technician does not have the parts available and does not intend to return to your site.
- Extinguishers manufactured to older British Standards may still be serviced so long as they can be returned to a serviceable condition. Soda, acid, riveted and plastic-bodied extinguishers and those requiring inversion are excluded.
- The technician should provide a written report which advises the Responsible Person of any extinguishers that have been condemned, not maintained or are missing; of any replacement extinguishers needed to meet the minimum requirements of BS5306; that any replacement or additional extinguishers are provided as soon as possible and that there must be adequate fire fighting equipment available at all times.
- There is a tolerance period of 1 month either side of the 12 month basic service interval, so there is a saving to be made by not bringing the service forward, which some technicians may recommend.
Avoid putting your workers and others who use your premises at risk. Ensure your fire extinguishers are maintained by a competent person.
If you are responsible for a school, retail and distribution warehouse or catering premises, your business is at higher risk than others. You can help prevent your business becoming another arson statistic by adopting a few simple precautions.
10 Tips for Arson Prevention
- Review your overall fire risk assessment and make sure it considers potential for arson. Ensure fire equipment such as alarms, extinguishers, detectors and sprinklers is maintained and protected against sabotage.
- Encourage staff to challenge visitors and report suspicious behaviour. Train them to be security conscious and be aware of their contribution to arson prevention.
- Maintain the building fabric in good repair and seal gaps beneath external doors.
- Limit quantities of flammable substances or LPG on site and keep them locked away at all times.
- Ensure that any dark recesses in your premises, e.g. inset doorways, enclosed yards, alleyways etc., are secured with a gate or door – arsonists can start fires without being seen by passers-by.
- Ensure that rubbish bins have lockable lids. If they can’t be locked, they should be stored within a secure compound or chained to an immovable object at least six metres from any building and away from overhanging roofs. The same applies to skips you may use to collect rubbish.
- Choose someone to carry out checks to ensure everyone has left your premises before you lock up at the close of business. Ensure that all employees who access the building during non-standard hours are made aware of their responsibilities and your fire arrangements. Know who holds keys to the premises and chase any that are missing.
- All windows should be locked when there are no workers on site.
- Fit a metal container to the inside of your letterbox to contain fire started by lit materials which may be posted.
- Don’t forget to reduce subsequent losses and disruption from a fire by preparing a disaster recovery and business continuity plan.
Arson is now one of the UK’s fastest-growing crimes. Don’t let it happen to your business – take action now.
Contact us should you require advice.