There’s been a lot of focus in the past few weeks on the fire risks that lurk within our businesses and homes.
At the end of September, the UK held its annual Fire Door Safety Week, last week America staged its own Fire Prevention Week and next month the UK will be running Electrical Fire Safety Week from November 22 to November 28.
In recent years, we’ve seen the numbers of fires in England dropping thanks in part to better awareness about fire risks in the business community and the wider public but this is not a time to grow complacent.
Although, there was a decline in the numbers of fires at non-domestic properties again in the year leading up to the end of March 2021, experts have been quick to point out that these figures are likely to have seen a reduction in part because many workplaces were closed during this period or were used less than usual.
As more and more of us return to our workplaces company owners and managers must make sure they have taken the necessary steps to protect their staff and visitors from fire risks.
What are the latest fire risks statistics?
Towards the end of August, the Fire and Rescue Services released their incident statistics for England for the year ending March 2021.
Their figures revealed the services attended 518,263 incidents, including 151,086 fires. During this period 240 people lost their lives as a result of fires, including 54 people who died in non-domestic building fires.
Although the numbers of deaths from fires have been dropping in England, it’s terrible to think that so many people continue to lose their lives every year.
To see that more than 22% of those deaths related to fires in a non-domestic building is something that everyone in every industry should take seriously and seek to address.
Fires do not start by themselves. Some may be deliberate, some may be accidental but whatever the cause there are always steps you can take to improve fire safety at your workplace.
What are the biggest fire risks in the workplace?
At Acorn Safety Services, our experienced team helps businesses, schools, hospitals and other organisations to assess their fire risks and provides them with guidance and recommendations to make their property fire safe.
We work with organisations across the UK and it’s fair to say that our health and safety experts see the same issues again and again.
One of the greatest fire risks that we encounter is staff misusing equipment. This is a particular cause for concern in the manufacturing and construction industries where powerful equipment can often generate significant levels of heat. You only need to stop for a second to think about the sparks generated by tools such as angle grinders or the process of welding to realise why construction and manufacturing staff must exercise extreme care in their workplaces.
Of course, these aren’t the only causes of equipment fires. Workplace kitchens and canteens can also pose fire risks if vents on freezers, fridges and microwaves aren’t kept clear. Overflowing electrical sockets in offices can also pose another fire risk.
Fire risks can be exacerbated in workplaces with a wealth of combustible materials. Offices often contain lots of paper and cardboard as well as wooden desks and shelving which can literally add fuel to any fire. It is advisable to reduce the amount of combustible materials as much as possible and to keep them in secure locations. It is also recommended that any waste is dealt with promptly as combustible items that are left outside buildings and sites are often a huge contributing factor in arson cases.
Faulty equipment and wiring is another a huge fire risk in workplaces. Such fires can be catastrophic as often wiring is hidden away in wall and roof spaces which means they can initially remain undiscovered.
Another fire risk to consider is whether any of your employees are smokers. If you have a dedicated smoking area you should ensure there is a proper cigarette bin which is regularly emptied.
These are not the only examples of fire risks in workplaces but if you begin to address these you are on your way towards fire safety.
Who is responsible for managing fire risks in the workplace?
In England and Wales, the people who tend to be responsible for managing fire risks in a business or a non-domestic property tend to be employers, owners, landlords, occupiers or anyone whose duties include the control of the premises such as facilities manager, building managers, managing agents and risk assessors.
The designated responsible person must ensure a fire risk assessment of the premises is carried out and reviewed regularly. They should ensure that staff know about the fire risks that have been identified and they should put in place, and maintain, appropriate fire safety measures. It is also their responsibility to ensure emergency plans have been put in place and that staff receive the necessary information, fire safety instruction and training.
The Government has published information to help you make sure your premises are safe from fire.
It is also important to remember that if you are building new premises or carrying out building work on existing premises, you must comply with building regulations which includes designing fire safety into the proposed building or extension. For further information about this, read the fire safety building regulations.
What are the dangers of ignoring fire risks?
If you fail to address fire risks, the most obvious danger is that you are putting people’s lives at risk along with your property or site.
However, the risks do not stop there. If you are found to be in breach of fire safety regulations, you could also be fined or be sent to prison.
Local fire and rescue authorities regularly inspect premises and can issue fire safety notices telling you about changes you need to make.
How can I protect my staff and business from fire risks?
At Acorn Safety Services we understand that it can be difficult for bosses to get their head around all the fire safety regulations. This is why we offer Fire Risk Assessments to help bosses protect their workforces and their companies from fire risks.
All of our highly trained Fire Risk Assessment Consultants are experienced in working for multiple industries so you can rest assured that they can meet all of your requirements.
Our clients also receive free access to their own live, secure and encrypted client portal which provides them with 24/7 access to their fire risk assessment data and reports which they are free to share. They also have access to our Fire Risk Assessment Consultants whenever they need them.