Chubb Fire & Security warns of risks associated with non-compliance of fire regulations
It is estimated that a large percentage of all companies in South Africa do not comply with the basic requirements for fire safety within their organisations. Company executives may be unaware that should one of their employees be injured or killed in a fire whilst on the company premises, they could be personally liable in the form of hefty fines or even prison sentences.
Government regulations require fire equipment and systems to comply with a standard of performance and to be regularly tested, serviced and maintained.
According to Bridget Aves, Regional Managing Director for KZN, all employers have a legal and moral obligation to assure the safety of their employees and anyone visiting their premises. The 1994 Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) gives employees the right to a healthy and safe working environment and non-compliance can result in stiff penalties.
“However, the fire industry in South Africa is largely unregulated by the local authorities due to lack of resources and knowledge. This allows unqualified and untrained people to operate in the market with very little fear of prosecution or any other action against them,” said Aves.
SANS 10400 is the standard of the Building and Occupancy Act and must be followed by every type of building in terms of firefighting equipment required. This is often monitored by the local fire departments but due to the many tasks and community duties they perform, many organisations are not monitored, resulting in them being non-compliant.
Tackling a fire with the wrong type of fire extinguisher can be ineffective and even dangerous. Extinguishers must also be properly serviced and maintained annually in accordance with SANS 1475 Part 1. Every business should have the peace of mind of knowing that it complies with SANS 10105, SANS 10400 and the Occupational Health and Safety Act with regard to quantity required and type of equipment in the workplace.
Aves says many organisations are unaware of the legal and municipal regulations and adhere to minimum requirements in order to save money, while often disregarding the consequences to life or property in the event of an incident.
“Fortunately the insurance industry has begun offering incentives on premiums if organisations comply with legal requirements. We therefore urge organisations to only employ the services of compliant and recognised companies who have properly trained staff and honest work ethics and who, themselves, also comply with all legal and municipal requirements,” Aves said.
She urges organisations to use common sense when approached by organisations or individuals wishing to either sell or maintain fire equipment. All reputable service providers, including sales personnel, should carry positive identification and/or proof of SAQCC Fire registration. “Do not be afraid to ask for these credentials. It could mean the difference between a safe workplace and a lengthy jail sentence,” said Aves.