NZ businesses warned about fire safety following changes to workplace health and safety legislation

By Dave Hipkins, national technical and product manager, Wormald New Zealand

P7060556Following recent changes to workplace health and safety legislation in New Zealand, businesses are being reminded of the importance of fire extinguishers and hand operated firefighting equipment (HOFFE).

These legislative changes now place a due diligence duty on any person conducting a business or undertaking, including company directors or partners, who are now personally responsible for the health and safety of staff and contractors. When it comes to protecting people and property from fire, businesses can no longer afford to cut corners.

Unfortunately, many New Zealand businesses are choosing to remove HOFFE from their premises. This stems from interpretation of the law and a motivation to cut costs and, although the decision may not be unlawful, it can put lives and operations at unnecessary risk.

Research from the University of Canterbury indicates that using a fire extinguisher in the event of a minor fire can potentially reduce the need for a visit from the fire service, and the business from expensive recovery costs.

There may also be a common misconception that sprinkler systems are designed to extinguish a fire. This is not the case – they are designed to limit the spread of fire. This means that if a fire occurs in a shielded area, such as under a desk shelf, the sprinkler system may not drench the area without the assistance of a fire extinguisher, hose reel or other appropriate firefighting equipment.

With the legislation changes now in place, businesses are expected to be more proactive and engaged in identifying workplace hazards and managing risk, making a comprehensive fire protection strategy vital. Having adequate and correct hand operated firefighting equipment installed provides an important first line of defence for staff which can help to reduce the impact of fire, help minimise business recovery costs, and ultimately save lives.

To better understand the effectiveness of HOFFE, the New Zealand Fire Service Commission has undertaken a research project, as part of the annual contestable research round. Part of the project is a survey whose aim is to better understand the use and benefits of HOFFE. The Fire Service is working with the fire protection industry to encourage businesses that have recently experienced a fire, to participate in the survey. Answering some questions about how a fire incident was managed will help to build a picture of the benefits of HOFFE. For details about the HOFFE project or to participate in the study, visit the survey webpage.

If your business needs assistance with fire protection strategy call Wormald on 08004 WORMALD or visit www.wormald.co.nz.

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