Ah, log books. Not the sort of thing that you’d buy for your mother for Mother’s Day (it’s the 6th March, in case you were wondering). And not really a book made out of logs. And when we’re talking about fire safety, we are certainly not talking about the captain’s log.
When it comes to log books, there is a fabulous quote that we can all relate to: ‘We must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy’. Who said that? A politician? A Chief Fire Officer? A health and safety advisor? Maybe even a member of the FIA? Nope. All wrong. Dumbledore, the famous wizard from JK Rowling’s ‘Harry Potter’. Yep, from a children’s book.
And whilst Dumbledore might be fictional, those words really do hold true when thinking about the usage of log books. There certainly is a right way to use them, and a wrong way to use them. It might be easy to skip out parts of the log book, or ignore them, or even just to not write in the thing at all… but that wouldn’t be right.
Like everything in the fire industry, there are rules to follow and best practice to comply with.
Well, what is a log book anyway? Quite simply: a record (or log) of everything related to fire safety in the building, kept up-to-date by the responsible person. It should contain the date, time, and the reason for the alarm sounding. Was it a false alarm? Was it a weekly test? Was it a real fire and did somebody get hurt? What device caused the alarm? It all needs to get written safely in one place.
‘The problem with logbooks is that generally they can just get dumped in reception and left there,’ explained Kevin Stearns, Compliance Manager for the FIA. Or worse still, a recent study by the Building Research Establishment reported that some records of fire alarms going off were written on messy scraps of paper or little post-it notes and never filed away properly. They had one case where one ‘responsible person’ hadn’t written in their fire safety log book for an entire 18 months! Not very responsible if you ask me…
‘The responsible person should ensure the logbook is filled in, such as when you do your weekly sounder tests,’ Kevin continued to explain. ‘You’ll also need them for inspections. But the biggest thing is that the responsible person must keep it up-to-date.’
Martin Duggan, Manager of the FIA interjected: ‘There is no actual law, as such, that says you have to keep a log book. But if there’s a fire and somebody dies, and you haven’t kept your records up-to-date, it will go to court. People are going to want to see your records. The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 says that the responsible person has a duty to keep records relating to fire safety, but it doesn’t say how. But a log book is the best way to do that.’
The key thing to remember is never to throw away an old log book, even if it’s full. You never know when you might need to refer back to it, or who might need to see it, especially if problems arise and things go to court.
‘Some responsible persons don’t appreciate the effectiveness of keeping a logbook up-to-date,’ Kevin said. ‘It also needs to be easily accessible.’ I have to agree with Kevin. Well, what’s the point in keeping a record of everything if you just stuff it in a drawer somewhere so that when there is a fire, and you’re off on holiday, other staff members can’t find it?
After wading through the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, I also stumbled upon a worrying fact. Whilst legally the responsible person doesn’t have to keep a log book (though it really is the best way to record things), they must keep records. But the really scary part is that it is an offence to keep false records, and that really will go to court if they get found out.
Say for example, the responsible person has been wonderfully lazy in regards to keeping things up-to-date for the last 2 years in the log book. Then some management person tells them they want to check the logbook tomorrow. ‘Yikes! I’ve got nothing written! Better just make it up…’ they think. That would be creating false records (i.e. completely not legal) and there would be no way to tell if the fire alarms actually work. Which is really not worth thinking about in terms of the catastrophic consequences that could follow….
But anyway, here’s the really key thing: ‘Fire detection and alarm maintenance and service people should report back to the responsible person if the logbook is inaccurate or getting completely unused. It really does just cover yourself legally if you report bad practise to the responsible person.’ Especially if you can prove that you reported it.
Yet another handy tip from Kevin. Thanks mate.