Free article: Fire equipment in your dental practice

Published: Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Stuart Collyer at Fire Protection Online talks about how to carry out a fire risk assessment.

Summary

This article will help guide you through the five stages of a fire risk assessment to ensure you’re fully compliant, fire safe, and have the correct equipment. These stages include:

  • Identifying fire hazards.
  • Recognising people who could find themselves at risk.
  • Removing and reducing the risk of fire as much as practically possible.
  • Preparing for an emergency and providing appropriate training.
  • Reviewing these risks and provisions regularly.

Just like any business, your dental practice needs to keep on top of fire safety. Having the correct fire equipment, such as extinguishers and fire alarms, is essential for ensuring your employees and patients are safe.
To do this, you must reduce the risk of a fire starting. In fact, over 70% of businesses which have been involved in a major fire either do not reopen or subsequently fail within three years.

Fire prevention is far easier than trying to recover from a fire. But regardless of what actions and procedures you put in place to prevent a fire, you need to ensure you’re prepared for if the worst were ever to happen.
You can make sure you’re doing everything practically possible by carrying out a fire risk assessment. This will ensure you’re compliant with fire safety legislation, as failure to do so puts the practice owner at risk of receiving a hefty fine or prison sentence. Plus, it helps to ensure the longevity of your business.

Identify fire hazards

Before you start purchasing new fire safety equipment, you first need to assess the hazards which are present on your premises to ensure you select equipment which is most suitable.

The best way is to walk around your premises and make a note of all the things which can burn, and the things which could start a fire. It’s then important that you keep these items separate from one another.
Heaters, cooking equipment, smoking materials, and possibility of arson are all possible sources of a fire. X-ray machines and other electrical equipment when they overheat, are misused, or faulty are other ways and can be avoided with regular inspection and servicing by professionals.

When looking around for potential fuel sources, you may find medical supplies, toiletries, aerosols, cleaning products, and waste, and you should consider locking these away in suitable containers. Furniture, furnishings, and clothing are also a risk, and this should be considered as part of the purchasing process.

But a dental practice may also have oxygen stored in cylinders, which can be a fire and explosion risk if damaged or used incorrectly. So it’s important to take real care in their use and storage.

You next need to think about the people who may find themselves on your premises at the time of a fire. Of course, this includes staff and patients, but don’t forget to take into consideration agency staff, contractors and other visitors to your practice.

Children, the disabled, and the elderly are likely to need assistance in making a safe and swift exit in an emergency.

Choose the right equipment

First of all, you need a reliable method of raising the alarm quickly in an emergency. A dental practice really should have either a conventional or addressable fire alarm system, consisting of detector and call points for automatic and manual activation. This should be fitted with sounders to alert occupants.

Emergency exit signs will then direct people to the nearest exit, meaning even those who are unfamiliar can quickly exit. You may also need to partner this with emergency lighting which will ensure people can find their way safely, even in the dark.

When there is a fire, having fire extinguishers will allow you to put out a small fire before it can escalate in size and spread. Alternatively, they’re on hand to assist in making a safe exit if you find fire blocking your route.
Generally speaking, you’re likely to need at least one 6-litre water or foam extinguisher, and a 2kg CO2 extinguisher for every 200 square metres of floor space, on every level of your premises. For kitchen areas, a fire blanket should be enough to combat a fire caused by someone making their lunch.

It’s important that you have the right extinguishers for the risks present. Using the wrong type could exacerbate a fire, and at the very least prove ineffective. For specific risks, such as flammable liquids, gases and metals, then specific extinguishers are required, sometimes needing their own health and safety risk assessment.

But don’t forget about your fire doors as these can help to contain a fire to one room, rather than spreading. Intumescent strips around the edges will expand in intense heat to create a fire and smoke seal, while door closers ensure the door always shuts behind you. When you need to provide easy access, a fire door holder will keep the door open but will shut automatically if the fire alarm is activated.

Train and plan

You need to provide adequate training for your staff for equipment you provide and expect them to use. This is the case whether it’s a new X-ray machine or your fire extinguishers. This way, you know they’re better prepared, meaning fewer mistakes and more effective use.

It’s important that you also have trained fire wardens. Ensure that you have enough staff trained to cover shifts, holidays and sickness, and they’ll be able to provide the appropriate education to the rest of your staff. Plus, they’re on hand to help keep on top of your fire safety duties and assist with evacuations.

However, the best way to make sure everyone knows what to do in an emergency is to have a fire action plan. This will detail what you expect people to do, who calls the fire brigade, and where everyone should assemble.

Maintain and review

As a dentist, you’re familiar with the need to carry out regular checks to spot potential problems before they become a major problem. And that same philosophy should be applied to your fire safety.

Fire extinguishers need servicing annually, with fire alarm systems and emergency lighting needing a professional service engineer to carry out maintenance every six months.

Plus, the fire brigade recommends that you review your fire risk assessment every year. This is because a series of small changes can have a massive impact, including a piece of new equipment, an alteration in building layout, and a change in business operations.

Toolkit

Use the following items in the Toolkit to put the ideas in the article into practice:

About the author

Stuart CollyerStuart Collyer is Staff Writer at Fire Protection Online, an organization that helps to make fire safety easy. Visit www.fireprotectiononline.co.uk to find out more information about fire risk assessments and fire safety equipment, or call 0800 321 3145.

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