Can a bakery legally make their staff stay during a fire alarm if there is a possibility that it is a false alarm? | LawHive - Solicitors & Lawyers Online
Can a bakery legally make their staff stay during a fire alarm if there is a possibility that it is a false alarm?
I work in a fairly large bakery factory for context. So the policy used to be, that if you hear a fire alarm sound, everybody out to the fire point in a calm, orderly fashion. Now they have decided that in order to save product in the event of a false alarm, that the managers & the mixing staff (“mixing staff” are not bosses to the “bakery ops”, but they do earn more money so I guess seen as more senior), & the bakery ops have to continue as normal on the line until 6 minutes have elapsed. In which a second alarm will sound & then the “essential”, yet least paid staff, will make their way outside. It should be said also that in training we were shown a video of how fast a fire can grow from a small & seemingly harmless, to an inescapable inferno. If memory serves it was something like 6-8 minutes. The logic being that “90% of the time, it’s a false alarm”. Now I was made to sign this new policy training sheet, but I don’t feel like taking even a 1% risk of burning to death for a few hot dog buns to be honest. My question is, can they legally do this? Will they legally be able to fire me if I ignore this new rule & leave the line to get to safety when the managers do? It seems to have gone backwards in terms of fire safety. Is there some kind of body I can consult?

Michael Flower

16th October 2021

+1007

1010 upvotes

Top Answer
First port of call should be The Health and Safety Executive, discuss this with them. Presumably you aren't part of a union, otherwise you could have discussed it with your union rep. Alternatively, contact an employment lawyer. From the sound of it, your company is breaking basic health and safety, as when a fire alarm goes off, it's mandatory for ALL STAFF to evacuate at the same time, you never tier the escape....to save lives. I would think that there's a case to be had here, sounds very shady.

Rosa Traynor

9th February 2022

+197

200 upvotes

NAL - I would report this new policy to your local (to the factory) fire department.

Neal Federico

9th February 2022

+349

352 upvotes

Woolworths learned, the hard way, what happens when fire alarms are ignored. I would be inclined to, promptly, contact the Fire Safety Inspector/Fire Safety Enforcement Officer (the title may vary) for the Fire & Rescue Service for the service that covers the geographic location of the premises. The FRS will ensure the plans are safe, and advise/enforce otherwise when appropriate.

Jerry Leach

9th February 2022

+130

133 upvotes

You are a bakery factory...Fire + Flour dust = a terrible time. HSE and Union - let them have the fun chats.

Margaret Becker

9th February 2022

+529

532 upvotes

This is common in large factories and power stations that I work in. The first alarm warns you there may be a fire and to carry on working, but prepare to evacuate. The first alarm is investigated, and then, if necessary the second alarm is raised if the alarm is genuine.

Steven Bassett

9th February 2022

+10

13 upvotes

Thing is, in this current climate people are hanging into their jobs, for dear life - management are no exception. If somebody who has an ear of the director(s) makes a suggestion, then other will agree to it, for fear of their jobs. It's an inhumane idea, to tier fire evacuation and if implemented, could potentially be a criminal case. That's also why I suggested a consultation with an employment and lawyer, you can normally get a free session with one, if you ask and specify the importance of the free consultation. Overall, the HSE should see this as a huge red light and put their butts into action, especially as you've practically been forced to sign this mandate out of fear for your job, that carries more weight than you realise. This is an awful situation and wish you the best in your endeavours, but you should really consider looking for another job.

Rosa Traynor

9th February 2022

Get everyone to walk out when the first alarm goes off what are the management going to do fire all of you. If they evacuate you do to your lives are worth just as much as the so called management's.

Henry Sloan

9th February 2022

+4

7 upvotes

Call your local fire station. They will be all over this! Also call your local HS executive

Robert Singletary

9th February 2022

+8

11 upvotes

INAL but if management is evacuating, then I'm evacuating. If they believe there is a real threat at the first alarm, enough for them to leave the building, surely all staff should do the same. If they believe the first alarm is just a warning and there's no need to evacuate, just be ready to do so, then surely they should stay in the building until the 2nd goes off as well. Make sure you get a copy of the new policy or a picture as proof in case anything comes from it. If the policy clearly states you are to stay working while management evacuate, then I'd send a copy (blank any personal info) to the fire department local to your work as others suggested. I'm sure they would be interested to know a business dealing with flammable materials is telling staff to ignore a fire alarm for 6 minutes.

Carl Mortimer

9th February 2022

+142

145 upvotes

So if it’s in the UK you can have an investigation period of up to 6 minutes before all the alarms go off (FIA regulation guidelines). I think it can actually go up to 10 but need approval of certain people So although it’s not great to stand around waiting they are perfectly within their right. You’ll be surprised how many places do this. Schools, Hospitals etc

Albertina Rivera

9th February 2022