Last reviewed 24 June 2020
UK fire safety legislation requires that employees are provided with adequate training at the time when they are first employed and on their being exposed to new or increased risks. Mike Sopp advises.
As well as being a legal requirement, British Standard 9999:2017 Fire Safety in the Design, Management and Use of Buildings notes that training is “an essential element of fire safety management”.
However, fire safety induction training can have limited benefits to those involved, and the organisation as a whole, if thought is not given to its content, delivery method, effectiveness and ongoing suitability.
Legislation makes a number of specific requirements in relation to training, as well as to the provision of information and instruction to employees.
The person responsible must ensure that employees are provided with adequate fire safety training at the time when they are first employed and on their being exposed to new or increased risks. Training is required to include “suitable and sufficient instruction on the appropriate precautions and actions to be taken by the employee”. In addition, training should be:
repeated periodically, where appropriate
adapted to take account of any new or changed risks to the safety of employees
provided in a manner appropriate to the risk identified by the risk assessment
carried out during working hours.
The person responsible must also ensure that employees are given comprehensible and relevant information about the risks to them which have been identified, and the precautions taken to ensure their safety.
It should also be noted that, where five or more people are employed, the person responsible is required to record that training has taken place, and that “enforcing authorities will make a professional judgement about whether the responsible person has complied with his duties by requesting evidence of the above and auditing the risk assessment”.
Government guidance notes that the information and instructions given “must be in a form that can be used and understood. This 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.”
All employees will require some level of fire-related competency and therefore some form of fire safety induction training. To meet legal requirements, the provision of information, instruction and training will often be undertaken within the same induction training programme for all employees.
If this course of action is taken, however, it should be noted that there may be a need to provide additional information and instruction to certain employees on more specific roles and responsibilities that they may have.
The content of the fire safety induction training can be determined by a number of factors, including:
features of the premises to which the training applies
the need for compliance with legislative requirements
the outcomes of fire risk assessments and content of fire emergency plan
the requirements of any fire-related policy of the organisation
the results of job-safety analysis or role mapping
lessons learnt from previous incidents
the needs of individuals, eg vulnerable or disabled persons.
Government guidance provides a comprehensive list of matters to be addressed in training, including actions to take in the event of a fire. As well as matters in relation to the action to take if fire breaks out, emphasis should also be placed on fire prevention arrangements.
It should also be noted that in relation to the provision of information, there is a legal requirement to inform employees of:
risks to them identified by the risk assessment
preventive and protective measures to be implemented
procedures and measures to be implemented in the event of serious or imminent danger
identities of persons nominated “to implement measures for fire-fighting” and/or appointed to implement procedures in the event of serious or imminent danger
risks arising from other employers/occupiers using the premises.
As such, information and instruction will involve an explanation of the fire procedures and how they are to be applied. This should include showing staff the fire protection arrangements, including the designated escape routes, location and operation of the fire warning system and any other fire safety equipment provided, such as fire extinguishers.
Once the fire safety induction training content has been decided, this must be put together into a programme with specific objectives outlined. Whether the training needs and objectives of employer and employee are met will depend upon the form the training takes. Factors that might be considered include:
target audience (background, experience, qualifications)
training content (externally approved or designed in-house)
standards to be achieved (competence of provider, attendees’ level of attainment)
delivery (external tutor/lecturer, internal trainer or by self-learning)
cost (delivery fees, support and reference materials, paid time-off)
location (number of sites, distance between sites, etc).
Choosing the correct form of training delivery is pivotal to the overall success of any training initiative, as the selection of an inappropriate delivery method for the new knowledge or skill will negate other important aspects, such as the content and how the results of the training are to be evaluated.
To some extent, the training content will have a bearing on the most suitable method of presentation, but the defined objectives of training needs will prevail in determining the content and level or standard to be attained.
As with any training, there are various options available. These range from more traditional classroom-delivered induction through to computer-based or electronic learning where the individual employees undertake training remotely.
Feedback and suitability
Any fire safety induction training provision must be reviewed to assess effectiveness. The objective evaluation of effectiveness will not necessarily be immediately evident. It usually takes time for the learning derived from any form of training to be identifiable as being responsible for the alteration in a previous trend, even though changes in attitudes, habits and behaviour may be recognisable at an individual level.
Apart from the traditional feedback from training (eg questionnaires and post-training tests or examinations), other methods of reviewing the effectiveness of training and ensuring that fire safety standards are being maintained include drills, workplace inspections and formal audits. These provide the opportunity to gain feedback, which can be used to update course content and delivery methods, and should be a flexible and dynamic tool used as part of ensuring a safe place of work.
Training must be repeated periodically and adapted to take account of any new or changed risks to the safety of the employees concerned. How often such training is to be repeated is not specified and will be very much dependent upon the fire risk factors involved with the premises.
However, all workplaces are dynamic, and changes will take place that may require a need to review and amend the induction training process. Changes to be considered include:
a change in the significance of risks when the fire risk assessment is reviewed
amendments to the emergency plan and the preventive and protective measures
where working practices, processes and people’s responsibilities change
the introduction of new technologies, equipment, materials or substances.
There must be a process in place that allows any such changes to be identified and taken into account. For example, this could be through a fire safety audit.