Is Your UK Business Fire Safety Plan Fireproof?

Your Business has Legal Requirements to Ensure Fire Safety. First Call Fire Can Help With Your Comprehensive Fire Safety Plan  

Fire safety in UK businesses is a critical aspect of running a business.  For businesses of five or more people, not only is it a legal requirement to have a robust fire safety plan in place, but it's crucial that your business’s fire safety plan adequately protects employees, customers, and your assets.  

You created your business because you are passionate about your product or service.  However, running a business also involves fulfilling legal obligations for Fire Safety and this aspect of your business may fall outside of your area of expertise.  Creating a comprehensive fire safety plan, in which you have complete confidence, and ensuring you have trained the people in your business in terms of the fire safety plan, might be one of those things that you are unsure of, or feel is beyond your expertise.  

Drawing on our First Call Fire knowledge and expertise, here we take you through the essential elements of how to plan for fire safety for your business so that you can understand the risks, are able to mitigate them and ensure that measures are in place to protect everyone on your premises.  

As a business owner in the UK, or the person responsible for fire safety in your company, it is your legal requirement to enact these five elements for fire safety:

  1. Identify the fire hazards
  1. Identify people at risk
  1. Evaluate, remove or reduce the risks
  1. Record your findings, prepare an emergency plan and provide training
  1. Review and update the fire risk assessment regularly

We are here to help you by sharing our knowledge, wisdom and expertise in Fire Risk Assessment to guide you on all five of the key elements of your Business Fire Safety Plan so that you can rest easy, knowing you’ve fulfilled what is legally required of you.  

1. Conduct a Fire Risk Assessment:

Conducting the Fire Risk Assessment is a time to get curious and see things with a fresh pair of eyes so that you can assess the likelihood of a fire occurring and the potential consequences if one were to happen.  Seeing the familiar everyday could mean there is a danger of becoming complacent that we have fire safety covered.  We can become hazard blind.  The Fire Risk Assessment is a time to peel off the scales from your eyes and see things as if for the first time.  

Take a walk around your business premises looking for fire hazards with a critical eye.  Draw on your industry knowledge, for example, it may be vital to your business to work with heat sources as part of a production process or you may work with materials that are flammable and you may already possess the knowledge as to how to mitigate these risks.  Expertise in your particular industry’s area of fire hazard and prevention may not have you fully fire risk covered so make sure you look at the business premises as a whole, not just what you do there.  

Questions to ask yourself would be, ‘What is the risk?’ or ‘What if ...’ as fire risk assessment involves identifying potential fire hazards in your workplace and premises.  Be on the lookout for faulty electrical equipment, flammable materials, such as piles of old papers near heat sources, or blocked fire exits. Do your heat sources have the potential to become fires?  If there is a kitchen on your premises or facilities for cooking, this could pose a fire risk.  Most businesses make accommodation for a kettle or a microwave.  Statistically, any cooking facilities are high on the list of how fires can start.  

What fire signage already exists? Have fire exit signs become discoloured or faded?  If you have updated or modified the building, are the fire safety signs still in the relevant places?  Do you need to purchase more?  Where could signage be placed so that it is not ambiguous?

It could be that a fire alarm system is the best way to protect your business, alongside fire extinguishers.  Is this a consideration?  Where could smoke alarms be placed for early fire detection?  Later you would record on the plan when smoke alarm batteries should be changed and how often the smoke alarm itself should be tested – the ideal is once a week.

Think about who would call the fire service should a fire occur.   Would you or the people on your premises be able to tackle a small fire?

It may be necessary to purchase or provide additional fire safety equipment such as emergency lighting or fire extinguishers.  As you compile your fire safety plan, note down the location and type of fire extinguishers you have.  Are the fire extinguishers suited to the potential hazards?  

2. Identify people at risk

Everyone is at risk in a fire.  However, certain groups or individuals who visit your premises or work on them could be more at risk than others.   It is your duty to understand how the diverse nature of the people who pass through your business are to be kept safe.  This could include security staff or cleaners who may be at the premises when you are not.  Consider how visitors would know what to do or where to go in case of a fire on your premises.  Knowing who is working in the building, when and what individual needs the people in your business have is essential.  

The risks might be different if people work in the business at night as opposed to during the day.  Consider whether there are times when people in your business are lone working.  Consider if you have disabled people or children or young people visiting or regularly on the premises.   Sometimes people have temporary disabilities, a member of staff using crutches, for example, how can this temporary risk be planned for and mitigated?  It stands to reason that customers on your premises will be less familiar with the premises and so are at greater risk.  

3. Evaluate and act

You may own premises that span more than one floor or there may be several staircases.  Making plans for an event such as an exit being cut off by fire is a must.  Is there another exit on the premises that could be used?  The layout and properties of your business premises enable you to plan escape routes in the event of a fire.    

Remember, your job is to evaluate – to give value to – the risks and then take action so that those risks are kept to a minimum as far as is reasonably possible.  The assessment of the risks will form the first step of your plan.  

For each risk, there is a plan to mitigate the hazard on the Fire Safety Plan.  

4. Record your findings, prepare an emergency plan and provide training

Of course, you may be the person responsible for evaluating the risks, recording them and ultimately keeping the hazards to a minimum, but it is of paramount importance that all people in the business know all the escape routes and it is incumbent on the person whose responsibility it is to create the Fire Risk Assessment that the relevant information contained within is disseminated to all the people in your business.  

Develop clear evacuation procedures that outline how employees and visitors should respond in the event of a fire.  Identify primary and secondary escape routes and ensure they are clearly marked and free from obstructions. Conduct regular fire drills to familiarise employees with evacuation procedures and ensure everyone knows what to do in an emergency.

Train employees on other fire safety procedures, including how to use fire extinguishers and other firefighting equipment. Educate staff on the importance of fire prevention and how to identify potential fire hazards in the workplace themselves.   Do they know to whom they should report potential hazards?  Make sure employees know who the designated fire marshals are and how to contact emergency services.

Your business is likely to evolve in terms of the way people work or the how things are used or where they are located.  New habits and behaviours form in work practices and cultures.  For example, a lone worker may decide to use a desk lamp brought from home in the darker winter months.  Without understanding that your fire plan stipulates that electrical equipment may require PAT testing, the employee could have inadvertently invited a hazard onto the premises.  In short, you have a duty to train staff in accordance with the Fire Safety Plan so that their awareness of fire hazards also helps to keep individual workers, the premises, other people on the premises and your assets safe.  

In essence, then, once the plan is created, there is a need to act and this would include training your staff to increase their fire safety awareness on the business premises.  Does everyone know how to exit the premises in the event of a fire?  Are staff equipped to deploy a fire extinguisher if feasible?  

Remember, fire safety is everyone's responsibility, even though as a designated person of responsibility you have the overall duty, it is good practice to train staff to stay vigilant and prioritise safety at all times.

5. Review and update the fire risk assessment regularly

The plan should also be regarded as an ongoing assessment as hazardous materials or hazardous situations can creep up in a busy working environment.  You may need to move machinery to an alternative place where the fire risk is lower if new machinery is being added to existing machinery.  New staff may have a particular need in the event of a fire and their need would have to be fire risk assessed and added to the fire safety plan if necessary.  

Be flexible and remain healthily vigilant because, ultimately, you are aiming to ensure safety for all.

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