Fire safety regulations need to be one of your top priorities when you own any business. It is what will allow your business to thrive for years to come, and will keep staff and customers as safe as possible.
In 2013-14 there were 22,200 fires recorded in buildings that were not dwellings. These resulted in over 1,000 people becoming injured.
Once a business has suffered a fire, it can be difficult for it to recover. In fact, over 70% of businesses involved in a major fire either do not open or subsequently fail within three years.
So it highlights the importance of staying up to date with fire regulations in your business. It’s one of the best things you can do to guarantee its future.
However, you must also remember that compliance isn’t a choice. By failing to meet the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, you are at risk of receiving a fine or a prison sentence. But it also means there are potential hazards on your premises which you’re not prepared for.
It All Starts With A Fire Risk Assessment
There’s no better way of fully understanding your business than to cast a critical eye over the premises and the operations that go on therein.
Although ultimate responsibility falls to the owner or persons in control, this job can be delegated to a competent person.
There are five stages to a fire risk assessment:
- Identify all potential combustibles and possible sources of ignition;
- Consider all the relevant people who are at greatest risk from fire;
- Remove or reduce the risks of fire as much as possible and provide precautions;
- Prepare for an emergency with fire safety equipment, by providing correct training, and having a plan which everyone is aware of;
- Record any findings and regularly review the assessment to keep it up-to-date.
Although you only need to keep a record of your risk assessment if you have five or more employees, it’s still good practice to do so. That way, you have proof that you’re fulfilling your obligations.
When a suitable risk assessment is carried out, it will give you guidance on the best procedures which need to be put in place.
For a fire to start and burn, it needs three things: oxygen, heat, and fuel. So if you can remove these elements as much as possible (except oxygen, unless of course, you have it bottled anywhere), you can prevent a fire.
Heaters, lights, naked flames, and electrical equipment are all examples of things that could start a fire. It is then important to make sure they are kept away from things which can burn.
Things to consider include packaging, rubbish, furniture, furnishings, equipment and stock. When there’s nothing stored near them which could start a fire, you reduce the likelihood of an accidental fire starting.
Keeping your stockroom tidy and organised is essential.
People At Risk
Not only do you need to consider the people on the premises, but also those nearby too. So you need to consider members of the public, as well as staff, customers, and contractors.
And to ensure you’re well prepared, you will also need to think about those who are at higher risk.
Are you prepared to help anyone who needs extra help in escaping, like the elderly or disabled? Also, take into consideration children who may be around and those who are there outside of normal working hours.
People should only consider tackling a fire if they feel safe to do so. But using extinguishers can prevent a growing fire from having a devastating effect on the business, and will stop lives from becoming endangered.
It’s an essential part of keeping people protected. But you need to ensure you are supplying extinguishers which are suitable for the risks which are present in your business. Placing signs where your extinguishers are will help everyone—this is important as using the wrong extinguisher on a fire could have devastating consequences.
Ensure they are securely fitted to the walls. But if they’re loose, or the wall is not strong enough to take the weight, instead place them on an extinguisher stand. You don’t want them falling off the wall and hurting someone or becoming damaged.
All fire safety equipment needs inspecting weekly to check for obvious signs of damage or tampering, and most will require annual servicing by an engineer to ensure they remain in a good and useable condition. You don’t want them to fail when you need them most.
Having a reliable method of fire detection is also essential. It will ensure everyone receives ample warning to get themselves to safety. A fire will spread quicker than you might expect, so every second really is vital. And quick action may make the difference in stopping a small fire from escalating in seriousness.
So you need to check regularly that it is functioning correctly. For small premises, you may only need a series of battery smoke alarms. However, a larger building may require a fire alarm system. This will provide a better level of detection which warns everyone simultaneously.
With any equipment you provide which you expect staff to use, you need to provide training in its use. That rule applies to fire extinguishers as well, and that means everyone’s prepared to act.
And you also need to decide on an emergency plan which everyone is aware of. Who is responsible for what in an emergency? Where does everyone assemble? What are the safe routes out of the building? Everyone needs to know.
Having signs which remind people of the important information is a good idea, but you must also have signs which direct people towards their nearest fire exit. And to make a hurried exit as safe as possible, all routes and doors need to be kept clear with no obstructions.
That’s why everyone needs to receive basic training when they first start working in your business. And by carrying out fire drills every six months or so, you help them to become familiar with the procedure to prepare for a real emergency.
It’s also vital to have a few members of staff trained as fire wardens. They will help an emergency evacuation to go smoothly, as well as helping you to ensure best fire safety practices. Having more than one means you always have cover for holidays and sickness.
It’s important that the risk assessment is kept up to date. That way, you can account for any structural alterations that may have occurred or changes in the use of the premises or staff.
Because of that, the best practice is to review it whenever a major change has occurred, or every year, to ensure all hazards are still considered.
The true cost of fire protection measures is often not apparent until you need them. Fire safety needs to be taken seriously.
It can not only save the lives of people but will save the money and stress of having to deal with the aftermath and its devastating consequences.