Practical Fire Safety Guidance for Care Homes
CHAPTER 5: REDUCING THE LIKELIHOOD OF FIRE 113. An effective strategy should be in place to reduce the likelihood of a fire starting. At its simplest, this means separating flammable and combustible materials from ignition sources and ensuring that equipment and installations are maintained.
HOUSEKEEPING AND STORAGE
114. Control of combustible materials should be achieved by attention to good housekeeping principles. By carefully considering the type of material, the quantities kept and the storage arrangements, risks can be significantly reduced. Appropriate practices are:
Not storing combustible materials in plant rooms, boiler rooms, attics, service voids and shafts, electrical main or sub switch rooms; Storage in dedicated storage areas, storerooms or cupboards; Regular checks and cleaning to remove and prevent the accumulation of waste in spaces such as plant rooms, service voids and shafts, and basements; Control and frequent disposal of packaging, waste and other combustible rubbish; Loose storage, bins and waste external to the building, sited well away from the building so that any fire cannot affect external walls or overhanging eaves; External bins and storage containers secured to prevent movement; Where fire raising is a potential problem, bin and container lids fitted with locks; and Regular building checks to ensure that storage arrangements are being complied with. STORAGE AND USE OF DANGEROUS SUBSTANCES
115. Certain substances and materials are by their nature, flammable, oxidising or potentially explosive. These substances are controlled by legislation, in particular the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002. The principles of safe handling and storage are:
Avoid the use of flammable materials and liquids wherever possible or substitute flammable substances and materials with those that are preferably non flammable or with those that are less flammable; Reduce the quantity michael kors uk of dangerous substances to the smallest reasonable amount necessary for use; Correctly store dangerous substances, for example in a fire resisting metal enclosure. All flammable liquids and gases should ideally be locked away, and segregated if necessary, to reduce the chance of them being involved in a fire or used in deliberate ignition; Ensure good ventilation is provided by way of high and low level vents to allow any flammable vapours to be dispersed; and Ensure that all staff are aware of the fire risk of dangerous substances present and the precautions necessary. 116. Flammable liquids present a high risk of increasing the chance of a fire starting and its rate of development. For example, a leak from a container of flammable liquid may produce flammable vapours which can travel some distance away from the source of the leak, increasing the likelihood of reaching a source of ignition. Vapours could reach rooms containing heating plant or electrical equ michael kors uk ipment. The risk can be reduced by ensuring the storage and use of flammable liquids is carefully managed and materials contaminated with flammable liquids are properly disposed of.
117. Under normal circumstances, Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) is flammable and is heavier than air. Where LPG cylinders or cartridges are used, these should be stored and used in the open air outside the building. Particular care should be taken to minimise the possibility of involvement in a fire.
118. Some care homes use bulk LPG fixed installations for cooking or heating, comprising an external tank and supply piping. In these installations there is a need to ensure that there are no fires in the vicinity of the LPG tank, and to consider the maintenance of the installation and piping.
120. LPG is commonly used as a propellant in aerosol cans. Aerosols are liable to explode if involved in a fire, causing spread and intensification of fire and possibly damaging doors so that they fail to function in restricting the spread of fire and smoke. These potential consequences should be taken into account and appropriate use, storage and disposal arrangements put into place for aerosols, taking into account the quantities involved. Manufacturers’ instructions should be followed. Storage should be away from escape routes and no storage should be allowed in boiler houses or other areas containing fixed sources of ignition such as electrical distribution boards in cupboards. They should not be stored or placed in damp areas (such as under sinks) where the container might corrode. Aerosol cans can overheat and rupture in direct sunlight therefore avoid placing aerosol cans containing LPG/flammable liquid propellant on window ledges.
SAFE USE OF EQUIPMENT
121. Lack of preventive maintenance increases the likelihood of fire starting in equipment. Common causes of fire in equipment are:
Inadequate cleaning of equipment such as tumble driers; Allowing extraction equipment, such as in kitchens, to build up excessive grease deposits; and Disabling or interfering with automatic or manual safety features and cut outs. 122. A competent person should regularly maintain (and where necessary clean), machinery, equipment and plant, including cooking, heating and office equipment. Appropriate signs and instructions on the safe use of equipment may be necessary.123. Electrical installations and electrical equipment can be a significant cause of fire. Possible causes include:
Equipment faults; Overheating cables and equipment due to overloading or loose connections; Incorrect installation, use or maintenance of the installation or equipment; Damaged or inadequate insulation on cables or wiring; Combustible materials placed close to electrical equipment which may give off heat; Arcing or sparking; and Modifications to an installation by unskilled/incompetent persons. 124. Some precautions are:
Only correctly wired and fused extension leads and plugs should be used; Electric blankets should be maintained and serviced in accordance with the manufacturers’ guidance; Electrical equipment should only be used for its designed purpose; Sockets and extension leads should not be overloaded; and Maintenance of installations and equipment should be done only by persons competent to do so. 125. To reduce the potential for a fire occurring, there should be an effective programme of planned preventive maintenance for electrical installations and equipment.
126. In the case of fixed electrical installations, this is likely to involve periodic visual inspection at a frequency based on risk, possibly by a member of staff trained in what to look for, along with testing at intervals no greater than five yearly, normally by an approved electrician. If there is any doubt about the safety of electrical installations, a competent electrician should be consulted.
127. Where portable electrical equipment is used, including items brought into the premises by staff or residents, it should be maintained this is likely to include portable appliance testing at suitable intervals.
129. There should be a procedure for reporting faults. Faulty equipment should be taken out of use when it is identified or suspected of being defective, and thereafter repaired by a competent person or replaced.130. The most common use of oxygen in care homes will probably be therapeutic clinical use on an ongoing basis. Oxygen poses a special hazard. High concentrations of oxygen can cause materials to burn extremely rapidly and some materials which are not normally considered combustible, can burn in an enriched oxygen atmosphere. Oxygen enrichment can occur in clothing, upholstery or bedding. Oxygen can cause an explosion when in contact with grease or oil.
131. Smoking should not be allowed where oxygen is used or stored, this includes residents using oxy michael kors uk gen masks. Electrical equipment such as electric razors, hairdryers, electric blankets or electric heaters should not be used in close proximity to oxygen equipment or in an oxygen enriched environment. There should be suitable instruction and warning signs highlighting the dangers. Staff should be aware of the inherent dangers of using oxygen and be trained in safe handling and use.
132. When not in use, oxygen cylinders should ideally be stored in a secure outdoor location. For clinical and operational reasons it may not be practical to store cylinders externally. Cylinders stored indoors for clinical use, should be stored upright in a suitable rack or trolley, secured in such a way that they cannot easily fall or be easily pulled or pushed over. Empty and full cylinders should be segregated and indicated with appropriate empty or full cylinder necklace tags. Cylinders should not be located in corridors, stairways or near exit doors or be michael kors uk beside any fires, naked lights, oils or grease. It should be ensured that equipment is not leaking and that the area where they are located, is adequately ventilated.133. Careless use of cigarettes and other smoking materials is a common cause of fire. Staff need to be vigilant. A cigarette may smoulder for some time, especially when surrounded by combustible material. A fire can start several hours after smoking materials have been emptied into waste bags and left for future disposal.
134. There should be a clearly defined smoking policy for residents, staff and visitors, and robust management control. The prohibition on smoking does not apply to residents in adult care homes where care providers have designated rooms for residents to smoke in, although they are not obliged to designate any rooms. Designated rooms, clearly marked as a room in which smoking is permitted, should be completely enclosed spaces with ventilation systems that do not ventilate into any other part of the building required to be smoke free. The number of combustibles in dedicated smoking rooms should be limited.
135. Where smoking by residents is permitted in designated rooms, sufficient quantities of ashtrays should be provided. Ashtrays should be emptied regularly each day into a metal container which is then taken outside. Ashtrays should not be emptied into plastic waste bags. Inspections of smoking areas should be made at regular intervals with staff being vigilant for any sign of scorch marks or burning. Staff should ensure that discarded smokers’ materials are removed and that they are fully extinguished. Evidence of scorch marks or burning on furniture or carpets indicates that some residents may need additional supervision.