Fire Safety in Your Franchisematt
In any business, fire safety has to be one of your top priorities. Not only will it ensure your staff and customers are kept as safe as possible, but it also helps to guarantee the future of your business.
Over 70% of businesses which have been involved in a major fire either do not reopen or subsequently fail within three years. Once a business has suffered a fire, it can be difficult to recover so it’s best to take action before it’s too late.
It is also why complying with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 is a requirement for all business owners. By not doing so, not only do you risk a hefty fine or a prison sentence, but also lives and livelihoods.
Undertaking a fire risk assessment is the best way forward, and it’s probably easier than you might expect…
The Five Stages Of A Fire Risk Assessment
Completing a fire risk assessment allows you to fully understand your business. When you go through the five steps, you’ll then have done everything that’s required of you:
- Identify all potential combustibles and possible sources of ignition;
- Consider all the relevant people who are at greatest risk from fire;
- Remove or reduce the risks of fire as much as possible and provide precautions;
- Prepare for an emergency with fire safety equipment, by providing correct training, and by having a plan which everyone is aware of;
- Record any findings and regularly review the assessment to keep it up-to-date.
For businesses with five or more employees, it is also a requirement to keep a written record that these have been carried out. But even if you have fewer members of staff, how else can you prove you’re fulfilling your duty unless you keep a record?
The first step is to walk around your premises making a note of the things which could start a fire (sources of ignition) and can burn (fuel source).
Heaters, cooking equipment, electrical equipment, naked flames, and a lot else besides, could all be the cause of a fire. That is why it’s recommended that gas and electrical equipment are serviced annually to ensure they remain in tip-top condition.
And those items then need to be kept a safe distance away from things such as paper, cardboard, fabric, furniture, rubbish, and flammable gases and liquids.
Who’s at Risk?
If a fire were to start, you now need to know the people who are most likely to be in the premises at the time. Staff, customers, contractors, delivery drivers and other visitors are all very likely. And don’t forget about those who could be in the area, such as people walking past or living in an upstairs flat.
But you also need to consider those who are going to need assistance in making a safe exit in an emergency. The elderly, children, and those with mobility issues could all possibly need a helping hand.
Evaluate and Act
Knowing the risks means you can now take action to ensure the appropriate precautions are in place to prepare for, and eliminate, as much as practically possible.
Having a method of fire detection in place, generally with a fire alarm system which will detect and warn throughout the whole premises, is the best course of action, as is installing fire extinguishers.
Water extinguishers are suitable for general fires including paper, cardboard, rubbish, and furnishings;
- Foam extinguishers can additionally be used for flammable liquids;
- Powder extinguishers are versatile, lighter, and safe to use around electrical equipment as well as flammable liquid and gas. However, they can affect visibility and breathing, so should be mitigated by a health and safety risk assessment if specified for indoor use;
- On electrical equipment, CO2 extinguishers are the safest method and will also prevent further damage to the electronics;
- ONLY a wet chemical extinguisher is safe to use on fires involving deep fat fryers.
Be sure to also place signs next to extinguishers which advise on their use, as well as signs which direct people through emergency exit routes to emergency exits. These routes may also need emergency lighting and fire doors.
Record, Plan, and Train
Knowing all that you know, you can now put together an effective emergency plan to make clear what everyone should do in the event of a fire. Include where people assemble and the route they’ll take, as well as deciding who the fire wardens are and who is going to dial 999.
When choosing fire wardens, pick those whom you can depend on and choose enough to ensure there is always a fire warden present when you’re open for business. When they have been given the correct training, they’ll then help you to promote good fire safety within the business, train other staff members, hold fire drills, and take charge calmly in an emergency.
With the plan in place and everyone aware of what it is, the best way to test that it is effective, and to make people familiar with it, is to hold a fire drill. Hopefully, it will go smoothly, but if it doesn’t then it’s best to find out now before it’s too late to alter it.
A fire risk assessment is never finished as it needs to be kept up-to-date with any changes that occur, no matter how minor. That’s why many fire brigades recommend reviewing it at least once a year to ensure it’s accurate.
Carrying out a fire risk assessment yourself, or by another competent person, is relatively easy, although many business owners choose to hire professional risk assessors to complete it for them as it saves time and gives them peace of mind.
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