Unlike Safety Representatives and First Aiders, there is no specific ratio prescribed towards fire fighters or emergency team members.
Your company’s hazard identification and risk assessments will determine what your precautionary measures you implement in these two areas.
Below is the section out of the Occupational Health & Safety Act, detailing the above:
“8. General duties of employers to their employees
1) Every employer shall provide and maintain, as far as is reasonably practicable, a working environment that is safe and without risk to the health and safety of his employees.
2) Without derogating from the generality of an employer’s duties under sub-section (1), the matters to which those duties refer include in particular –
(a) a provision and maintenance of systems of work, plant and machinery that, as far as is reasonably practicable, are safe and without risks to health,
(b) taking such steps as may be reasonably practicable to eliminate or mitigate any hazard or potential hazard to the safety of employees, before resorting to personal protective equipment;
(c) making arrangements for ensuring, as far as is reasonably practicable, the safety and absence of risks to health in connection with the production, processing, use, handling, storage or transport of articles or substances;
(d) establishing, as far as is reasonably practicable, what hazards to the health and safety or persons are attached to any work which is performed, any article or substance which is produced, processed, used, handled, stored or transported and any plant or machinery which is used in his business, and he shall as far as is reasonably practicable, further establish what precautionary measures should be taken with respect to such work, article, substance, plant and machinery in order to protect the health and safety of persons, and he shall provide the necessary means to apply such precautionary measures;
(e) providing such information, instructions, training and supervision as may be necessary to ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety at work of his employees;
(f) as far as is reasonably practicable, not permitting any employee to do any work or to produce, process, use, handle, store or transport any article or substance or to operate any plant or machinery, unless the precautionary measures contemplated in paragraphs (b) and (d), or any other precautionary measures which may be prescribed, have been taken;
(g) taking all necessary measures to ensure that the requirements of this Act are complied with by every person in his employment or on premises under his control where plant or machinery is used;
(h) enforcing such measures as may be necessary in the interest of health and safety;
(i) ensuring that work is performed and that plant or machinery is used under the general supervision of a person trained to understand the hazards associated with it and who have the authority to ensure that precautionary measures taken by the employer are implemented; and
(j) causing all employees to be informed regarding the scope of their authority as contemplated in section 37(1)(b).”
As you can see, Section 8 of the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act stipulates that the employer shall provide and maintain, as far as is reasonably practicable, a working environment that is safe and without risk to the health of his employees. By law, employers must identify, evaluate, remove or mitigate work related hazards and risks. This includes planning and preparation for the inevitable like fire and evacuation.
This should be reflected in your companies’ emergency plan needs to be site specific. A site’s emergency plan describes, in detail, an organisation’s policy and procedures for coping with an emergency situation on site.
These policies and procedures should define how the organization will protect people and property. Developing the plan is the process of assigning emergency related tasks to individuals in the organisation, and outlining protective actions to be taken.
Furthermore, Section 13 of the OHS Act stipulates that employees must be informed of work related hazards (including fire) as well as the precautionary measures taken to protect them.
“13. Duty to inform
Without derogating from any specific duty imposed on an employer by this Act, every employer shall– (a) as far as is reasonably practicable, cause every employee to be made conversant with the hazards to his health and safety attached to any work which he has to perform, any article or substance which he has to produce, process, use, handle, store or transport and any plant or machinery which he is required or permitted to use, as well as with the precautionary measures which should be taken and observed with respect to those hazards;”
Note: Important – your fire fighter and first aider should be two different persons. A conflict of interest may occur in case of an emergency – will I treat the injured persons as first aider or will I act as a fire fighter?
It is due to all the above, that employers are required to send their staff on accredited training as fire fighters and emergency team members.
The reason we go the ‘accredited course’ route, is to ensure that employees are trained up on a government supported unit standard course, so that in the event of a fire, or where personal need to be evacuated out the building, Directors, Owners, General Managers, and all those liable for health and safety, can be rest assured that they have done all they could to provide a work area which is safe for their employees.
In turn protecting themselves, and their employees from harm or the law.
Please feel free to contact us should you need more information on the courses discussed.
Alternatively, you can visit our website: www.srg.co.za