Q&A with Kmart Australia: Implementing fire safety in the retail environment

Charles Hammersla, National Facilities & Compliance Manager at Kmart Australia answers our questions about fire safety in the retail environment. 

Charles Hammersla, National Facilities & Compliance Manager at Kmart Australia

Charles Hammersla, National Facilities & Compliance Manager at Kmart Australia

1. What fire protection challenges do retailers face?

Retailers have a duty of care to our teams and customers to protect them from fire risks when they visit or work in our premises. Generally, our stores are consistent in terms of merchandise mix and we also try to deliver a consistent shop floor layout. What this means is that our fire protection strategies can also be consistent across our stores.

The main challenge we tend to face is the human element – to keep the focus of our teams on maintaining general housekeeping standards, including those relating to sprinkler head or switchboard clearances, and egress path blockages.

Principally this means that we need to be consistent around our fire protection approach – and make it as easy as possible to control risks in our environments. Continue reading

A guide to procuring fire safety systems for NZ schools

Process for upgrading fire alarms at schools_Jul14_FINAL

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

Fire is a very real risk for New Zealand schools. According to the New Zealand Fire Service, there were 427 fires in education buildings between 2007 and 2011*.

Along with posing a risk to the safety of students and staff, a fire can have costly consequences. The economic cost of fires in education facilities totalled $33.7 million dollars between 2007 and 2011, with each fire incident costing an average of $78,936*.

Executive officers face a myriad of decisions when procuring fire protection systems, including considerations around funding, equipment, providers, maintenance contracts and costs.

It is important to approach these decisions with a big picture mentality, by considering the school’s unique fire protection requirements to ensure a suitable fire protection solution is installed. Continue reading

Six tips for educating children about fire safety

By Garry Kwok, National Manager, Technical Services Group

Winter fire safetyWinter has well and truly arrived and as your family looks for ways to stay warm and cosy, it’s important to be vigilant about keeping your home fire safe. This includes discussing fire prevention with children.

Every child should be educated about fire safety, starting at home. If children see their parents taking fire safety seriously, they are more likely to do the same.

It is vital that families conduct a fire safety audit of the home. This includes ensuring that smoke alarms are installed in the correct location, batteries have been replaced with new ones (if it’s an existing alarm) and checking that fire safety equipment such as fire extinguishers or fire blankets are accessible and in good working order. Smoke alarms, fire extinguishers and fire blankets are all essential tools for defending a home against a fire.

Families are also encouraged to develop a fire escape plan and practice it regularly with the entire family. This can be a great way to involve children in the fire safety discussion.

A fire escape plan should start with a floor plan of the home that maps out the quickest escape route from each room and indicates where fire safety equipment is kept.

Wormald has the following fire safety advice for parents to help them reduce the risk of fire in the home:

  1. Ensure children know what the smoke alarm sounds like and they what to do if they hear it.
  2. Keep matches and lighters well out of reach of children.
  3. Ensure children are kept at a safe distance from heaters, candles, and oil burners.
  4. Supervise children in the kitchen and keep them away from the stovetop and oven.
  5. Ensure heaters are always kept on a flat stable surface on the floor and away from curtains or other flammable items such as clothes and toys.
  6. Be aware that some children may have a natural curiosity about fire and be tempted to be involved in ‘fire play’. Closely monitor any suspicious behaviour.

For complete fire safety protection this winter, fire safety kits are available from Wormald. Each kit includes a 1kg ABE fire extinguisher, photoelectric smoke alarm and fire blanket.

If you or someone you know has been affected by fire, you may want to consider contacting the Fire Foundation. Wormald supports the work of the Fire Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation which helps fire and burns victims throughout Australia to rebuild their lives.

The dark winter days can also increase the risk of a break-in at home. The latest blog post from ADT Security offers seven tips for home security during winter.

Working safely in confined spaces – training is vital

By Garry Kwok, National Technical Services Manager at Wormald

With an atmosphere of potentially harmful contaminants, an unsafe level of oxygen and restricted means of entry and exit, working within confined spaces can pose many risks to health and safety.

Wormald confined space trainingEmployers should be aware of their duty to minimise health and safety risks, and provide training to personnel working in confined spaces.  Work health and safety laws set out the legal obligations that must be met by employers before work can commence in a confined space.

A unique set of skills and knowledge is required for those working in confined spaces, so the value of training cannot be underestimated.  If something goes wrong, knowing what to do and how to do it is vital.  To fully understand and manage the risks, it is important to learn and be tested under real-life conditions and training can provide this.

In addition to training, there are several other things to consider before starting work in confined spaces, including entry permits, risk assessments and rescue procedures, so both employers and employees must be prepared. Continue reading

Maintain to contain – the importance of fire safety inspection and testing

By Dave Hipkins, National Technical and Product Manager, Wormald New Zealand

Wormald fire protectionWhen it comes to building safety management, protecting lives is top priority.  Property managers are responsible for ensuring adequate life safety equipment is in place and that it is kept in proper working order, ready to perform if needed.

While most building managers understand their obligation to install fire protection equipment and systems on their premises, our technicians across Australia and New Zealand find that service and maintenance requirements are often overlooked or not fully understood.

If a fire occurs, working fire protection systems can mean the difference between a minor fire and a devastating blaze.  If you’re a building owner or manager, you must ensure each fire safety installation in your building is serviced and maintained at regular intervals by an appropriately qualified person. Continue reading

Accounting for human behaviour in emergency response

By Garry Kwok, National Technical Services Manager at Wormald

Wormald - fire safetyEmergency response is not immune to the idiosyncrasies of human behaviour.  Regardless of how much training is provided, it is almost impossible to predict how an individual will respond to an actual emergency, whether it is a fire, earthquake, natural disaster or accident.

While computational and engineering tools are necessary requirements for designing a building’s evacuation routes, the US National Institute of Standards and Technology has found these tools often fail to fully consider the impact of human behaviour.

Building and facility managers should consider how human drivers can affect the safe response to an emergency. This involves being mindful of the cognitive drivers that influence how long it may take occupants to begin evacuating the building and what exit route they may choose.

According to a study conducted  by the Mailman School of Public Health, which examined the evacuation decisions of the September 11th World Trade Centre tragedy, this may include factors such as an individual’s perceived ability to exit the building, previous evacuation experience, permission to leave and the information available to make a decision. Research also shows an evacuation decision is influenced by group dynamics. In a fire emergency, staff are more likely to follow their respected colleagues. Continue reading

Don’t let fire ruin the festivities: prepare your home

By John Lynch, general manager of Wormald’s Business Support Services

Christmas_Wormald fire safetyThe festive season is upon us and while the Christmas rush may be overwhelming, it’s important to set aside some time to ensure your home is adequately protected against fire.  This can help to reduce the risk of an abrupt and disastrous end to festivities.

When it comes to fire safety, simple oversights can greatly increase the risk of fire.  Do a quick audit of your home to identify potential fire hazards. These may include year round hazards such as kitchen appliances and overloaded power boards, or season specific risks like Christmas tree lights, decorative candles and barbecues.

In the event of a fire, fire protection equipment provides a crucial line of defence. Ensure your home is fitted with at least one working smoke alarm, ideally located near sleeping areas.  The alarm should be checked by pushing the test button the unit. Batteries should be replaced annually – and don’t be tempted to remove smoke alarm batteries to power new Christmas gifts! Continue reading

Reminder to business managers: fire doesn’t take a holiday

By John Lynch, general manager of Wormald’s Business Support Services

Wormald - fire safetyIf you’re a business owner or property manager, I’m sure preparations are well underway for the festive season. As you get ready to head off for a well-earned Christmas break, it’s important to remember that fire doesn’t take a holiday. In fact, the risk of fire is just as high when your premises are vacant, if not higher.

According to Wormald’s recent Business Fire Safety Report, electrical hazards and machinery are responsible for 55 per cent of business fires; both electrical and machinery fires commonly occur when a premises is vacant.

The same study also found that many business managers across Australia and New Zealand may be underestimating the impact of fire. Only 50 per cent of survey respondents are concerned about damage to property, 31 per cent worried about loss of data or equipment and 16 per cent concerned about downtime.

Fire can have disastrous consequences and the damage can be irreparable for some small businesses. Estimates from The UK Chief Fire Officers Association show that 60 per cent of private businesses never recover from fire and the average cost of a commercial fire is £147,500, which equates to just over $250,000[1].

To minimise the threat of fire and its costly consequences, set aside some time to undertake a risk assessment of your premises before the business shuts down for the holiday period. This can help identify potential hazards and enable you to take necessary precautions. Continue reading

Fire safety training – what is required and what are the options?

By Tony Jones, Engineering, Defence, Training and Rescue Manager with Wormald

ImageIf your premises experienced a fire would you and your employees know what to do?

Fire is a risk for every facility and can pose a serious threat to people, property and a business’ reputation. Whether you’re responsible for a large hotel, high-rise office block, small retail outlet or an industrial workshop, you need to know the risks and prepare accordingly.

In addition to having the correct fire protection systems and equipment in place, fire safety training must be provided to ensure each staff member knows how to respond in an emergency situation.

Emergency related training is a vital element of any fire prevention plan. The Australian Standard, AS 3745 – 2010 Planning for Emergencies in Facilities outlines the minimum requirements for the development of the emergency plan and also provides direction for the planning and implementation of an Emergency Planning Committee, Emergency Control Organisation (ECO) and emergency response procedures.

The Standard requires training to be completed by at least one member of the Emergency Planning Committee, for the Emergency Control Organisation and for the occupants. Members of the Emergency Control Organisation must also attend skills retention training every six months.

To give you an idea of what’s available, here are some of the courses offered by Wormald: Continue reading

Winter electrical fire safety reminder for businesses

By Garry Kwok, National Technical Services Manager at Wormald

Overload

With the noticeable drop in temperature there’s no denying that winter has arrived.  As the cold weather sets in, portable electric heaters will start to re-appear in workplaces throughout the country, under desks, in office kitchens, in workshops and dotted around larger facilities.  While everyone wants to stay cosy and warm, it’s important to remember the fire risks that arise with the use of this extra electrical equipment.

If you’re using portable heaters, ensure that they have been properly serviced and are in good working order.  They should also be closely monitored when in use and not placed under desks or in enclosed spaces.  The heat from these units can easily cause paper or other combustible material to catch fire or melt the insulation around electrical appliances.

Electrical fire hazards exist in virtually every workplace.  Almost all electrical equipment is potentially hazardous and can cause serious injury or damage if not properly used or maintained.  The business fire safety research report carried out by Wormald last year found that electrical hazards are the most common cause of workplace fires. Continue reading