Most fires are preventable and carrying out a fire risk assessment may dramatically reduce the chances of ignition. Fire Prevention week (3rd to 9th October 2021) aims to raise awareness on the risks that fire can bring to your homes and business.
Fires need three things to start:
- a source of ignition (heat)
- a source of fuel (something that burns), and
Spontaneous combustion can also be a cause when items self-heat, however, this mainly relates to gasses and hazardous substances.
According to the National Statistics for year ending March 2021, there was 240 fire related fatalities, the lowest since 1982. This decrease in fatalities is thought to be caused by the pandemic and the temporary shutdown of many businesses. In spite of this, the Fire and Rescue service still attended 518,263 incidents throughout the 12 month period.
Fire Risk in the Workplace
Certain businesses have increased risk of fires, such as those involving heat like welders and cutters, and those in the oil and gas sector. These industries will be required to perform increased fire risk assessments and checks, which range from visual inspections, checking and enforcing specific personal protection equipment (PPE) to be worn, and ensuring there is adequate ventilation.
The most common cause of fire within the workplace is electrics, mainly due to either faulty equipment or electricity mixing with water. However, the most media reported fires tend to stem from storage of materials and waste as these often have the most devastating consequences.
For this reason, insurance companies will often impose a waste endorsement which outlines how often waste should be emptied and removed. There may also be restrictions on the storage of certain items, such as the distance at which they should be kept away from the building.
On average, a fire claim can take around 12-18 months to reach completion and the property to be restored. This should be considered when looking at your business interruption or loss of rent cover on your insurance policies.
As a landlord, there are various legal requirements that must be met to ensure the safety of your tenants, such as gas safety checks, electrical inspections, fitting smoke alarms and, in larger properties, fire alarms and extinguishers, as well as ensuring any repairs are completed and electrical items provided are well maintained.
Carrying out a Fire Risk Assessment
Every commercial property should undertake a fire risk assessment and, if the business has 5 or more people, a written record must be kept. Things to consider when carrying out a fire risk assessment are:
- Are sprinklers required? Consider the sector occupying the building, the size, building materials, and proximity to emergency services.
- Do you have adequate and in date fire extinguishers in communal areas?
- Are there adequate emergency lighting and fire exits?
- Are tenants, if applicable, aware of where these are and where the fire evacuation zones are?
- If applicable, has the fire alarm been maintained?
- Are regular tests of the fire alarm and evacuation carried out? Are these tests correctly documented?
- Are regular checks of the smoke alarms carried out?
- Have all electrical items had a PAC test?
- If any cooking takes place, do you have fire blankets or required prevention in place?
- Is the smoking area an appropriate distance from the property?
Find out more
If you are unsure on your requirements or whether you have the relevant documentation it would be advisable to speak to a Health and Safety Consultant or your Insurance Broker on your obligations as a policyholder.