Fire safety: Is your business prepared?

Wes Barker

January 17 2020

In early December 2019, a fire broke out at the Bull and Claw restaurant in Co. Down.

At the height of the fire, five fire appliances and 28 firefighters were at the scene and the road was closed by police. It’s believed that the fire started accidentally, causing significant damage to the premises. In the end, two people were admitted to hospital.

Fires like this aren’t exactly uncommon. They can occur at any business, at any time. The question is, do you know what to do in the event of a fire?

Fire safety legislation: What does it mean?

The Fire and Rescue Services (Northern Ireland) Order 2006 and the Fire Safety Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2010 came into effect on November 15th, 2010. The objectives were to reduce the burdens on businesses caused by the existence of multiple, overlapping general fire safety regimes and the responsibilities of enforcing authorities e.g. the Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service, HSENI and local authorities.

Enforcement in most cases is undertaken by Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service, unless the premises is under construction or is a sports ground. Then, they fall under the responsibility of HSENI or the Local Authorities respectively.

What are your responsibilities?

As an employer, you have a duty as the responsible person (in relation to the premises) to take such general fire precautions as will ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, the safety of employees and relevant persons (visitors, contractors etc.). This means that you need to develop and implement a fire emergency plan.

The responsible person must ensure a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks is undertaken by a competent person. This is for the purpose of identifying the general fire precautions needed to comply with legislation.

Don’t forget, if you have more than five employees, or require a licence or registration, you must record the significant findings of the risk assessment and any actions you have taken to remove/reduce the risk.

Fire emergency plan

The purpose of the fire emergency plan is to ensure that people in the premises know what to do in the event of a fire so that the premises can be safely evacuated.

Things to consider when documenting your plan include:

  • How will people be warned
  • What action people should take on discovering a fire
  • What action should people take in the event of a fire
  • Arrangements for calling the Fire & Rescue Service
  • Isolation of hazardous plant/equipment
  • Fire alarm activities
  • Evacuation procedure and assembly points
  • Fire fighting arrangements
  • Procedures for meeting the Fire & Rescue Service
  • Provision of information for the incident
  • Vulnerable people and those with disabilities

The fire risk assessment

By completing a fire risk assessment, you’ll be able to identify what you need to do to prevent a fire and keep people safe.

There are five steps to fire risk assessment. These are:

Identify fire hazards:

  • Sources of ignition
  • Sources of fuel
  • Sources of oxygen

Identify the people at risk:

  • People in and around the premises
  • Persons especially at risk

Evaluate, remove, reduce and protect from risk:

  • The risk of a fire starting
  • The risk to people
  • Removing or reducing fire hazards
  • Removing or reducing the risks to people
  • Fire detection/warning
  • Firefighting equipment
  • Lighting, signs and notices
  • Escape routes
  • Maintenance

Record, plan, inform, train and instruct:

  • Record significant findings and take action
  • Prepare an emergency plan
  • Inform, instruct and train relevant people

Review:

  • Revise where necessary
  • Review periodically

Costs of inadequate management of fire safety

The impact of mismanaged fire safety procedures vary. In general, losses due to fire can cause significant disruption to business due to:

  • Injury or loss of life
  • Loss of business with effects on sales and profits
  • Liability for fines

Conclusion

The importance of implementing fire safety procedures and assessing fire risks is obvious. In doing so, you stand a better chance of preventing a fire, and potential serious injury to you, your staff, and your customers.

Need our help?

If you would like further complimentary advice on fire safety in the workplace from an expert, our advisors are ready to take your call any time day or night. Call us on 0800 917 0771 or request a callback here.

You can also download our free Fire Risk Assessment guide here to ensure you follow the correct procedures.  

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