When you run your own business, staying compliant with government regulations can be overwhelming.
With new legislation being passed every year, it is crucial to keep up to date with all the changes - and this can be a steep learning curve if you’re new to the business world, or if you have operated your business for a long time and become ‘stuck in your ways’.
Fire safety regulations are particularly important to stay compliant with, as a failure to do so can lead to you facing a hefty fine or prison time, while even minor offences could result in a penalty of £5,000.
Here, we will go through the most common fire mistakes regularly made by businesses, and how to avoid them.
1. Not Adhering To Regulations
As discussed, there are serious personal, financial, and even criminal consequences to failing to stay compliant with fire safety regulations.
The health of your staff, your customers, and your business all rides on your compliance with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, the Health And Safety At Work At Work Act (1974), and the guidance from your local Fire and Rescue Authority.
Under these rules, businesses must conduct at least one fire drill a year to remain compliant with fire legislation, and should add 'refresher' drills each time reviews are made to fire procedure.
These fire procedure reviews should take place at yearly intervals, should include a Fire Risk Assessment, and should be examined by a professional assessor once every four years. As with all compliance matters, this process should be thoroughly documented, and if no changes are made to the procedure, you should be able to explain why this decision was made.
Many businesses treat fire safety drills as a 'box ticking exercise', and may run the occasional one to cover their backs but fail to carry out regular drills and neglect to update their staff on the changes made to fire procedure.
However, it is essential that all members of staff are well-versed in your fire safety protocols, as this will help prevent them from being trapped in your premises in the event of a fire.
Furthermore, your fire safety procedures should be simple and easily memorable, as under high levels of stress many people find it difficult to retrieve information.
Ideally, your business should consider doing weekly fire drills as a matter of best practice, since having a regular routine of training and reinforcing fire safety measures will ensure your staff have the protocols deeply embedded in their memory, where they can easily be called upon in the event of an emergency.
2. Poor Quality Fire Alarms
Fire alarms are not created equal. As with any other type of electronic system, there is a wide variety of alarms - some of which are extremely effective, and some of which are not.
An effective alarm will respond quickly in the event of a fire, giving you more time to escort staff and visitors away from the building - this is particularly important if there are people with additional mobility needs on site.
On the other hand, an ineffective alarm may respond slower, which results in less time to get people out of the building and potentially puts lives at risk.
Plus, if your alarm isn’t regularly checked and maintained, you may find that it fails altogether.
Failing to schedule regular services of your fire alarm system also means that you are not complying with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, which therefore puts you and your business at risk of fines, penalties, and legal repercussions.
3. Not Separating Flammable Objects From Ignition Points
It seems obvious, but it’s surprising how often business owners forget to ensure that flammable objects are separated from ignition points.
These flammable materials can include things like piles of packaging or paperwork, which can build up around electricity sockets and thereby present a fire safety risk. Other factors - such as staff smoking in areas where they are not supposed to – can also threaten to ignite flammable substances.
In addition, some businesses that have commercial kitchens may leave their stores of oils, fuels, or other accelerants near their cooking equipment, thereby creating the potential to fuel a fire that grows out of control and threatens everyone in the building.
While it may seem like common sense to separate flammable materials from areas where fires can potentially develop, if your staff are in a hurry or are distracted by another task, they may not consider the health and safety consequences of leaving clutter near potential fire sources.
Therefore, managers should be tasked with ensuring that areas around ignition points are kept free of litter, and with preventing staff from carrying out risky behaviours.
4. Having Faulty, Old, Or Poorly-Maintained Electrical Equipment
Electrical equipment that is old or faulty has the potential to act as an ignition point, which can cause a spark and result in a fire outbreak.
In particular, keep an eye out for frayed or exposed wires, and broken sockets. These risk stray sparks starting a fire that can spread across the building.
All electrical equipment should be regularly checked and maintained, and Portable Appliance Testing (PAT) should be carried out every two years at a minimum. Furthermore, under UK law an Electrical Installation Condition Report is advised to be carried out every five years, although this can vary depending on the requirements of individual industries.
5. Failing To Document Checks And Procedures
Documenting your fire safety checks using your fire logbook and fire alarm folder is essential for evidencing that your company has complied with fire safety legislation – this will help guard you against any financial and legal repercussions that could cost your business many thousands of pounds.
Documenting your checks and procedures also plays a critical role in scheduling future inspections. If you don't know when your last inspection was, you can easily forget to schedule the next one. It also identifies who is responsible for each fire safety role if any issues arise, helping you to address any neglectful behaviours quickly and easily.
Want to ensure your business has the correct fire safety protocols and protections in place? Give us a call!