From destruction of stock to loss of profits and customer loyalty, the financial implications of business fires are obvious. Small or medium-sized single-premises businesses are at particular risk, when the loss of premises can cripple your operations. Even bigger companies will feel the financial implications of a large fire.
More importantly, fire represents a serious threat to the lives of both employees and customers. As a result of these factors, many businesses fail to continue trading following a serious fire.
For business-specific fire guidelines, read on.
Evacuation of disabled people
The safe evacuation of disabled staff and customers should form an important element of your fire safety procedures. As a part of your risk assessment you should identify those members of your team or customer base who are particularly vulnerable and prepare accordingly to ensure that everyone is accounted for in your plan.
If an employer fails in their duty to make specific evacuation protocol for disabled people this could be perceived as a discriminatory act, in breach of the Equality Act 2010.
Key points to consider:
- Disability is a wide-ranging definition not limited to physical disabilities
- Disabled individuals require a level of care personal to them and their particular disabilities. Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans (PEEPs) should be tailored to suit every individual
- Think carefully about the layout of your floor plan. Evacuation plans should be clearly laid out and include clear instructions detailing exactly how disabled people can reach safety in the event of a fire alarm
- All doors in the fire escape route should be DDA compliant, allowing wheelchair users to comfortably fit through (at least 1 meter clear opening) and over a DDA compliant threshold (no more than a 12mm lip, on the threshold).
- Remember that a refuge is not a complete evacuation. Disabled people should be helped to a refuge point from where they can then be safely evacuated. The Fire Services will expect to see evidence of this when they investigate your Fire Safety Risk Assessment
Whether you maintain multi-complex warehouses or a simple dry goods store behind your shop floor, stockrooms form an integral part of most supply chains. This also makes them a high fire risk; damaged or compromised stockrooms can mean the loss of goods, inability to trade and smaller takings.
- Maintain your stockrooms for safe, secure areas. Cleanliness and orderly stockrooms should be routine anyway. High standards of housekeeping will help to reduce the threat of fire
- Store your products carefully. If your stocklist contains combustible materials such as flammable liquids/gases, store them away from sources of heat or fire
- Use flammable liquids sparingly, and close containers when not in use. Are your cleaning products combustible? Review MSDS’s (Material Safety Data Sheets) in order to observe safe storage protocol.
Regular testing of fire safety equipment
Safety equipment requires regular maintenance in order to ensure it is working correctly and to standard. All fire doors, fire extinguishers and escape routes should be checked frequently, along with associated lighting and signs. You should also check that:
- Fire detection and alarm equipment is working correctly
- New staff know what to do in the event of a fire, including details of escape routes and assembly points
- Current staff receive regular refresher courses; fire safety training forms an important part of any business’ safety policies
Emergency planning and training
Businesses have a duty of care towards their employees and customers. This extends to fire safety in the event of a fire incident. In order to regulate and ensure this safety, you should offer emergency training for all of your staff, including fire procedure, escape routes, help for disabled people, customer direction, and details of assembly points. The best way to achieve this is to:
- Design an emergency plan
- Familiarise every employee with this plan, ensuring they are trained in its use and have experience practising it
- Place regular signage throughout your premises outlining these policies
- Ensure your staff can correctly identify potential fire hazards, driving vigilance and promoting preventive fire measures
End of play
Another way businesses differ from residential properties is the fact that many are unoccupied throughout the night. The outbreak of a fire outside of trading hours can therefore be particularly devastating, placing greater emphasis on detection equipment like alarms and sensors.
To best protect your premises throughout the night, it is important to ensure your shop floor is closed, clean and shut down properly at the end of each day. The following should be completed each evening as routine:
- Staff should known to close all windows and doors before leaving the premises, paying particular attention to fire doors and doors usually kept open by automatic release units. Fire doors are the best way to contain fire damage but they will only work if they have been closed during shutdown
- Switch off non-essential electrical equipment, and, where appropriate, unplug. Click here to learn why this is so important
- Naked flames are an obvious fire risk. Left unchecked, they can quickly grow out of control. Make sure these are extinguished or left in a safe condition before staff members vacate your premises
- Ensure that all flammable materials are responsibly stored, in line with our stockroom recommendations above
A final note: business premises make particularly inviting targets for arson attacks. Preventing unauthorised entry to your business premises should be standard procedure; encouraging and enforcing the security of your property will go a long way towards helping to prevent intentional fires from being started throughout your premises.
Most of us are familiar with standard fire safety procedure, but business premises require extra precautions. Don’t risk the safety of your staff, customers or stock; protect yourself today by following the above advice to ensure secure, fire-safe business premises.
To find out more about our range of Fire Rated Doors, get in touch with us on +44 (0) 1384 220 050 or contact us here.