SAFed Health and Safety Passport Scheme

Module 6 —Fire and Emergency Procedure

6.1       Introduction

This document forms one of a series of modules on various health and safety subjects that comprise the examinable material considered necessary for the award of the SAFed Health and Safety Passport.

When you have studied this module you should have acquired sufficient knowledge to be able to complete the questions detailed at the end of the module.  Upon satisfactory completion of all modules, you will be eligible to undertake the final assessment for the award of the SAFed Health and Safety Passport.

The SAFed Health and Safety Passport is issued to Engineer Surveyors by the Health and Safety Manager of their employing company upon satisfactory completion of the Safety Passport final assessment.

The award of the SAFed Health and Safety Passport provides evidence that the holder of the Passport has the appropriate knowledge and awareness in health and safety matters considered necessary for an Engineer Surveyor to undertake the duties for which they are authorised by their employing company.

The passport is valid for a maximum of three years.

6.2       Key Objectives

Having read this module you should be aware of:

·         The legal requirement regarding fire at work within your own company and if applicable, the site at which you are working at the time.

·         Theory and causes of fire

·         Fire precautions and evacuation procedures

·         Types of fire extinguisher and their applicability for fighting fires

6.3       Legal Commentary

The Health and Safety laws, which cover this module are:

·         The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974

·         The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989

·         The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999

·         The Low Voltage Electrical Equipment (safety) Regulations 1989

·         The Fire Precautions Act 1971

·         The Fire Safety and Safety of Places of Sport Act 1987

·         The Fire Precautions (Workplace) (Amendment) Regulations 1999

Employees are protected at work by controls which employers must put in place.  There are certain legal duties which make this the case.  However, employees are also legally required to act in a safe way and co-operate with employers to allow a safe working environment to be established and maintained.

The Health and Safety at Work, etc Act 1974 requires people to work in relative safety.  A breach of the Act is a criminal offence as the Act is criminal law, so to contravene it makes the offender a criminal.

Many establishments are covered by a fire certificate which is required under the Fire Precautions Act 1971 (as amended) and the Fire Safety and Safety of Places of Sport Act 1987 in terms of the number of people working there, the style of the building or perhaps the materials used or stored.

A fire certificate will spell out the type of fire control measures which must be made.  It is in everyone's interest to comply with any such measures by making sure fire exits remain accessible, and complying with fire drill practices enthusiastically.  Everyone can help to increase the effectiveness of safety measures by doing everything possible to prevent the risk of fire.

All places of work with only a very few exceptions (as amended by the Fire Precautions (Workplace) (Amendment) Regulations 1999) must comply with the Fire Precautions (Workplace) Regulations 1997.  Fire safety risk assessments need to be carried out and remedial measures introduced as necessary.

6.4       Theory and causes of fire

Virtually all fires need three elements to exist, namely oxygen, heat and fuel.

It is heat that starts fire.  Heat may be in the form of a single spark, or may result from exposure to a flame or other heat source.  To prevent fires it is necessary to try to keep at least two elements separate from each other.  To kill a fire at least one of the elements must be removed.  This is how fire extinguishers work ¾ they remove heat by cooling, as in the case of water extinguishers, or they remove the oxygen by smothering, as in the case of powder extinguishers.

An effective fire control strategy concentrates on keeping fuel and heat separate.  Not much can be done to regulate the level of oxygen, but heat and fuel can be controlled.  The most fundamental fire prevention strategy is to maintain a high standard of housekeeping.  Cluttering up the workplace with quantities of combustible material is extremely dangerous, especially where a source of ignition may be present.

Controlling the amount of combustible material is only part of any fire prevention strategy.  Consideration also needs to be given to likely sources of ignition ¾ the heat element of the fire triangle


Four things must be present at the same time in order to produce fire:

·         Enough oxygen to sustain combustion,

·         Enough heat to raise the material to its ignition temperature,

·         Some sort of fuel or combustible material, and

·         The chemical, exothermic reaction that is fire.

The important thing to remember is take any of these four things away and you will not have a fire or the fire will be extinguished.

Faulty electrical equipment is one of the biggest causes of fires.  Never attempt repairs to such equipment unless you are competent to do so.  A level of competence is required even for simple jobs such as replacing a fuse.  For example, it must be ascertained that the fuse is the correct one for the particular appliance.

Check electrical equipment regularly, report any faults immediately and remove faulty equipment from service.  Look for signs of damage to leads and plugs, and any indication of overheating in accordance with the company health and safety policy and procedures.

Many factors affect the manner in which a fire develops.  Outdoors, the prevailing weather conditions play a major role as does the available fuel.  However, indoors, the building construction, its services, the type of materials present and the ability to draw air all determine the size of the fire, how it will spread and the manner in which it will affect other areas.

Many people are caught unawares by the speed at which a fire can spread.  What may seem to be a small, easily controllable fire can soon engulf a large area because of its ability to ignite materials several metres away

6.5       What to do upon discovering a fire

On discovering a fire, the first action to take is to raise the alarm in accordance with company health and safety policy and procedures.  In most cases this is done by breaking the glass in a fire alarm call point.  It might also be necessary to ring the emergency services on 999.

Never tackle a fire unless help has been summoned and you feel completely able to do so.  If you do feel able to tackle the fire, and you have raised the alarm and summoned help, never allow yourself to become blocked off by the fire from the exit.  If the fire is not put out with one extinguisher, do not try to continue with another one.

Evacuate from the building or area to the assembly point and convey whatever information you have concerning the fire to whoever is in charge.  This will include where exactly the fire is, what is burning, how fast it is spreading, and in which direction.  Any information concerning the amount of smoke and heat, etc should also be relayed

6.6       What to do if caught in a fire

Proceed to the nearest exit.  Your escape route should be downward (towards the ground floor) and not upwards unless you are absolutely forced by the fire to go in that direction.  Do not in any circumstances use make use of a lift to make your escape.

In the event of becoming trapped

·         DO NOT PANIC — THINK.  First, get as far away as possible from the fire and smoke

·         Close all doors between you and the fire

·         If a phone is available, IMMEDIATELY CALL 999

·         If there is no phone, try to get in front of a window where other people can see you and then attract attention for help

·         Before opening closed doors, feel door top and bottom, for heat (use back of hand).  If hot, do not open.  If door is not hot, open slowly.  Stand behind door and to one side; be prepared to close it quickly if fire is present.

·         Stay low when moving through smoke, (more people die from smoke inhalation during a fire than from burns).

If trapped in a room

·         Place cloth material around/under door to prevent smoke from entering

·         Retreat.  Close as many doors as possible between you and the fire

·         Be prepared to signal from window but DO NOT BREAK GLASS unless absolutely necessary, (outside smoke may be drawn in)

If caught in smoke

·         SMOKE IS A GREAT RISK TO YOUR HEALTH AND LIFE as it contains many poisonous gases such as carbon monoxide.

·         If you can, place a wet cloth in front of your mouth and nose.  Understand that this will help for a little while but the fumes will still pass through and can cause harm to you.

·         If you have to move through thick smoke, keep LOW to avoid the dense fumes.

·         Stay in touch with some point of reference, like the wall, edge of the room, staircase, etc., so you don't lose your sense of direction.

·         If you feel that you are becoming overwhelmed by smoke or fumes — GO DOWN on your hands and knees, keep your mouth low and towards the floor, breath the air at a level approximately two inches from the floor where there is cleaner air.

If forced to advance through flames

·         Hold your breath.  Move quickly, covering head and hair.  Keep head down and close eyes as often as possible.

·         If possible, wet your hair and clothing.

·         If clothing catches fire, STOP, DROP, and ROLL.

These points could save your life and allow you enough time to escape the fire.  Remember - FEAR AND PANIC can be as deadly a combination as smoke and fire

6.7       Emergency evacuation procedures

All workplaces should have some form of emergency procedure to be carried out in the event of a fire.  In some workplaces the procedure might be something as simple as someone shouting ‘Fire!’ and all present leaving via the one and only exit.

Employees as well as employers have a duty to ensure that they are familiar with such procedures and know instinctively what to do in the event of an emergency.  When visiting client sites, Engineer Surveyors should ensure that they are familiar with site specific procedures.  The main thing to remember is to take the necessary action to remove yourself from harm without putting others at risk

6.8       What to do when hearing a fire alarm

On hearing a fire alarm, you should immediately stop work and make your way calmly to the nearest safe exit, in accordance with the company health and safety policy and procedures.  If there is someone close by who may not know the procedure or the way to the nearest exit, they should be escorted.

If you are the last one to leave an office, close the doors and windows if it is safe to do so.  Do not stop to collect belongings or use the lift; go straight to the muster point and wait for your name to be read out on the roll call.  Only go back into the building or affected area when someone in authority has said it is safe to return.

6.9       Precautions to be taken before entering and working in any space served by an inert gas automatic fixed fire fighting system

The following precautions should be taken before entering a space served by an automatic inert gas fixed fire fighting system (CO2 for example):

·         Make sure that the person responsible for the safety of the site where the space is located is informed that you require to enter the space.  Find out and comply fully with any site specific requirements for entering the space.

·         Whilst site specific requirements for entering spaces with inert gas automatic fixed fire fighting systems should be fully complied with, it should be noted that entry into such spaces must not be made unless the automatic system is either switched to ‘Manual’ or is de-activated.

·         Find out the precise details of any audible and/or visual warnings that may activate in the event of a discharge of the inert gas fire fighting system.  If warnings activate leave the space immediately.

·         Identify all means of escape from the space and make sure the escape routes are kept clear at all times when in the space.

6.10     Fire extinguishers

Fire extinguishers are provided to enable competent people to tackle small fires or as a tool to aid escape from a fire.  They are very reliable and can sit in a corner for years and still be effective when necessary provided they are regularly serviced.  Because their role is vital in possibly protecting life and property, it is important that they are not misused and that everyone knows how to use them in an emergency.

Make sure that the escape route is always accessible.  Do not let the fire cut you off from escape.  If one extinguisher cannot put out the fire, then two probably will not either.  At the first sign of the fire getting out of hand, abandon it and evacuate the building.

6.10.1  Choice of fire extinguisher

The choice of fire extinguisher to use depends upon the class of fire.  Fires can be classed as 'A', 'B', 'C' or 'Electrical'.  Below are the internationally recognised symbols for each of the above classes with a description of the type of fire.

Class 'A' Class 'B' Class 'C'

Carbonaceous fires Flammable liquids Flammable gases involving solids such as paint, oil, as wood, paper, plastic, grease, coal and fats etc.


Fires involving electrical equipment.

6.10.2  Types of Extinguishers

It is of great importance that potential fire fighters know which extinguisher to use on any particular type of fire.  The wrong one could make things a great deal worse.  An example of this would be putting water on a liquid fire; the flames will erupt violently, spreading the fire over a wider area.

Where the fire has been caused by electrical equipment, another hazard is encountered in that water and foam will conduct electricity.

Fire extinguishers are usually located according to the particular risk.  For example, where flammable liquids are stored, you may find powder or foam extinguishers.  Offices tend to contain plenty of electrical equipment, therefore carbon dioxide extinguishers are popular.  Water extinguishers are found where large quantities of paper, cardboard or fabric are stocked, such as in stationery stores.


Note that there are two recognised colour schemes for coding, one for the older existing extinguishers and another for those purchased after 1 January 1997.  The European Standard BS EN 3 states that all equipment should be red in colour and allow a colour coded zone of not more than 5% of the extinguisher body to identify the contents.  Extinguishers will also have to display a pictogram to identify the type of fire they can be used on.


Indicates a Water fire extinguisher - Suitable for use on 'class A' type fires.


Indicates a Dry Powder extinguisher.

Suitable for use on class 'A', 'B', 'C' and Electrical' fires.

Dry Powder does not have a cooling effect therefore re-ignition may occur



Indicates a Foam Extinguisher.  Suitable for use on class 'A' & 'B'

Indicates a Carbon Dioxide (CO2) extinguisher.  Suitable for use on class 'B' and 'Electrical' fires
6.10.3  Choosing an extinguisher
Type/Colours How it works Danger How to use

Water works by mainly cooling burning material.

Best for wood, cloth, paper, plastics, coal etc (solids).

Do not use on burning fat or oil or on live electrical appliances. Pointing the jet at the base of the flames and keep it moving across the area of the fire.  Ensure that all areas of the fire are out.
Standard Dry Powder or Multi-Purpose Dry Powder

Works by knocking down the flames and, on burning solids, melts to form a skin smothering the fire. Provides some cooling effect. 

Best for wood, cloth, paper, plastics, coal etc. (solids). Liquids such as grease, fats, oil, paint, petrol etc. (EXCEPT CHIP OR FAT PAN FIRES)

Does not cool the fire very well.  Safe on electrical equipment although does not penetrate the spaces in equipment easily and the fire may re-ignite, the simplest method is usually to isolate the power supply. Smouldering material in deep seated fires can cause the fire Point the jet discharge horn /nozzle at the base of the flames and, with a rapid sweeping motion drive the fire to the far edge until all the flames are out.
AFFF (Aqueous Film-Forming Foam)

Forms a fire extinguishing film on the surface of a burning liquid. Has a cooling action with a wider extinguishing application than water on solid combustible materials. 

Best for wood, cloth, paper, plastics, coal etc (solids). Liquids such as grease, fats oil, paint, petrol etc. (EXCEPT CHIP OR FAT PAN FIRES).

Do not use on chip pan fires. For fires involving solids, point the jet at the base of the flames and keep it moving across the area of the fire until it is out. For fire involving liquids, do not aim the jet straight into the liquid. Where the liquid on fire is in a container, point the jet at the inside edge and allow the foam to build up and flow across the liquid.

Forms a blanket of foam over the surface of the burning liquid and smothers the fire. 

Best for liquids such as grease, fats oil, paint, petrol etc. (EXCEPT CHIP OR FAT PAN FIRES).

Generally not recommended for home use. Do not aim the jet straight into the liquid. Where the liquid on fire is in a container, point the jet at the inside edge and allow the foam to build up and flow across the liquid.
Carbon Dioxide CO2

Vaporising liquid gas which smothers the flames by displacing the oxygen in the air. 

Best for live electrical appliances and liquids such as grease, oil paint, petrol etc.


This type of extinguisher does not cool the fire very well and you must watch the fire does not start up again. Fumes from CO2 extinguishers can be harmful if used in confined spaces. Ventilate the area as soon as the fire has been extinguished. The discharge horn/nozzle should be directed at the base of the flames and the jet kept moving across the area of the fire.

6.11     End of module and next steps

Well done!  By reaching this point you will have finished studying this particular module.  You should now have sufficient knowledge to answer the questions contained at the end of the module.

Answers to the questions should be forwarded to your Health and Safety Manager.

Provided that you have answered the questions correctly, your Health and Safety Manager will forward to you your next self study module.
Click here to answer question on Module 6