Fire and rescue teams attended around 528,700 incidents during 2015-16, suggesting a need for better fire risk management within both private and commercial properties.
According to the most recent Fire Statistics Monitor, published by the Department for Communities and Local Government, there was a total of 303 fire fatalities in England during 2015-2016, and it was found that the increase in fatalities was mainly due to fatalities from accidental fires. In addition, there were found to be 7,644 non-fatal fire casualties in England in 2015-16, a 1% increase on the previous year.
Government guidelines state that you are responsible for fire safety if you’re an owner, landlord or occupier of a business or other non-domestic premises. As the ‘responsible person’, there are several duties you’re expected to carry out to ensure your premises is secure and employees are kept safe. Such duties, according to the gov.uk website, include:
- Conducting a fire safety risk assessment of the property and reviewing it on a regular basis
- Informing staff about potential fire risks and providing training on fire safety
- Putting adequate fire safety measures in place
- Planning for an emergency
Fire risk assessment
Conducting a thorough fire risk assessment will help limit the chance of a fire occurring within the property. When carrying out the assessment, the government advises on a five-step process:
- Identify fire hazards
Three things are needed to make a fire: fuel, oxygen and ignition. Firstly, you should note all sources which could provide the fuel, oxygen or ignition. These could include waste and overstocked products (fuel), air conditioning units (oxygen), and naked flames and heaters (ignition), etc.
- Identify who is at risk
Next, you should identify who would be most at risk if a fire was to occur. For example, people working in rooms with no fire escapes or people working around fire risks.
- Evaluate, remove, reduce and protect
Identifying potential hazards allows you to determine the level of risk within the premises. The next step is to attempt to remove and reduce potential hazards and take actions to protect employees. For example, replacing flammable items with less flammable ones and enforcing a safe-smoking policy. When you are looking for ways to minimise fire risk, you must also remember:
- It is a necessity to install a fire detection and warning system within commercial property and ensure its range reaches everyone within the building.
- Generally speaking, there should be at least one fire extinguisher per 200m² of floor space and at least one per floor.
- People should be able to use fire safety doors without a key. If the premises is regularly accessed by the public, you could consider fire safety doors with push pads/panic bars. All fire exits should also be clearly highlighted with illuminated signs.
- Depending on the size of premises, you might consider additional safety measures such as emergency lighting.
- It is essential for you to have dedicated safe routes within the premises, allowing employees to easily exit the building in the event of a fire. Ideally, there should be more than one route for each part of the building and travel distance should be as short as possible.
- Record, plan and train
Your assessment needs to be put in writing so it can be reviewed and used to educate staff. Record potential risks identified in steps 1 and 2 and note what preventative measures have been taken to limit the chance of fire. An emergency plan should include a step-by-step guide of what to do in the event of a fire.
As your business evolves, so should your fire safety risk assessment. Likewise, you must remember to train any new staff on the company’s fire safety procedures.
Most fires are caused by accident but are often a result of negligence. Ensuring you conduct a thorough fire safety risk assessment will help to protect your business as well as your employees.
If you would like to discuss any element of your commercial insurance protection or to arrange a Fire Risk Management Audit for your business, contact your dedicated contact or the commercial team on 01653 697055 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
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