The UK is currently experiencing frequent heatwaves brought on by hot summers and the effects of global warming, significantly affecting both people and businesses across the country. The rising temperatures have led to a surge in fire incidents, posing a growing threat throughout the UK1.
Regrettably, these fire incidents have resulted in considerable property damage and, tragically, the loss of countless lives. Undoubtedly, this situation has imposed severe hardships on the public and numerous industries across the nation.
Weather conditions have a direct impact on the likelihood and severity of fires occurring. Factors such as higher temperatures, lower humidity, longer dry spells, and stronger winds create favourable conditions for fires to ignite and spread.
Common causes of commercial fires
Commercial fires pose a significant threat to businesses, employees, and property, often resulting in devastating consequences. Understanding the common causes of these fires is crucial for implementing effective preventive measures. By identifying the key factors that contribute to commercial fires, businesses can take proactive steps to mitigate risks and ensure the safety of their premises.
The following points outline some of the most frequent causes of commercial fires:
- Arson: All types of businesses and buildings are at risk of arson. These types of commercial fires are often devastating due the likelihood of the fire occurring outside normal business hours.
- Electrical malfunctions: Faulty wiring, overloaded circuits, or malfunctioning electrical equipment can lead to short circuits or sparks, resulting in fires.
- Heating and cooking equipment: Improper use or maintenance of heating systems, such as furnaces or boilers, and commercial cooking equipment, such as stoves, fryers, or ovens, can cause fires.
- Flammable materials: Improper storage or handling of flammable substances like chemicals, solvents, fuels, or cleaning agents can create an environment prone to fires.
- Combustible waste: Accumulation of combustible materials like paper, cardboard, packaging materials, or clutter can fuel a fire and contribute to its spread.
- Faulty or neglected equipment: Lack of maintenance, mechanical failures, or malfunctioning of machinery, such as industrial equipment, ventilation systems, or generators, can lead to fires.
- Human negligence: Accidental actions like careless smoking, improper use or storage of flammable materials, or negligent handling of open flames can contribute to commercial fires.
What businesses can do to reduce their fire risk?
Businesses need to prioritise fire safety measures, including regular inspections, staff training, proper storage and handling procedures, and adherence to building and fire codes to minimise the risk of commercial fires.
Here are some recommended measures to minimise the risk of fire:
- Fire safety (England) regulations 2022: The Fire Safety Order places the duty to keep people safe from the fire upon the Responsible Person. The Responsible Person is a legally created entity, as defined in Article 3 of The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. The Responsible Person must carry out an assessment of the fire risks to people on the premises or within its vicinity, (these are described as 'relevant persons' in the order). The fire risk assessment helps identify the fire safety precautions the Responsible Person must take to comply with the Fire Safety Order2.
- Fire risk assessments and training: Fire risk assessment and training are essential under the UK fire safety law 2005. Businesses must identify fire hazards, evaluate risks, and develop emergency plans. Staff should receive training on fire prevention, evacuation procedures, and equipment usage. Regular fire drills help ensure preparedness and familiarise occupants with procedures.
- Ensuring commercial premises comply with current building codes: According to the Regulatory Reform [Fire Safety] order 2005, all commercial buildings should implement suitable measures to minimise fire hazards3.
- Adequate means of escape must be provided with clear and unobstructed escape routes.
- Fire detection alarms should be installed and maintained regularly.
- Fire extinguishers and other fire safety equipment should be accessible and properly maintained
- Employees should receive fire safety training covering prevention, evacuation and equipment training.
- Enhancing security measures at your business: By implementing robust security systems such as surveillance cameras, access controls, and fire detection systems, potential arsonists might be deterred from targeting your property. Additionally, improved security creates a safer environment, making it more challenging for individuals with malicious intentions to access the premises undetected. These preventive measures act as a powerful deterrent and provide early detection, minimising the likelihood of arson incidents and safeguarding your business from devastating consequences.
- General risk management: Implementing a strict no-smoking policy, conducting regular wiring and circuit checks, adhering to meticulous cleaning procedures, and ensuring safe storage of hazardous chemicals and flammable substances are imperative for preventing fire hazards. These measures collectively establish a robust defence against potential risks, safeguards life and property.
The key benefits of having a robust fire risk management strategy in place
Fire is one of nature's most devastating and unpredictable hazards that causes substantial financial losses. By investing in robust fire management practices, clients can enjoy the peace of mind that comes from knowing they have taken proactive steps to mitigate fire risks, protect lives and property, and maintain a resilient business environment.
Benefits of having robust fire risk management practices in place:
- Enhanced safety: Robust fire management practices prioritise the safety of occupants, employees, and visitors. By implementing preventive measures, conducting regular inspections, and maintaining proper fire safety systems, the risk of fire incidents is significantly reduced thereby creating a safer environment.
- Compliance with regulations: Having robust fire management practices ensures compliance with applicable fire safety regulations and codes. This helps clients avoid legal issues, penalties, and potential business disruptions that may arise from non-compliance.
- Protection of assets: Effective fire management practices help safeguard valuable assets, equipment, and property from fire damage. By implementing measures such as fire detection systems, proper storage of flammable materials, and emergency response plans, clients can minimise losses and maintain business continuity.
- Business continuity: By having robust fire management practices in place, clients are better prepared to handle fire emergencies. Well-defined evacuation procedures, trained staff, and regular fire drills ensure a swift and coordinated response, minimising the impact on operations and enabling a faster return to normal business activities.
- Reputation and trust: Clients with robust fire management practices demonstrate a commitment to safety, which enhances their reputation and instills confidence among employees, customers, and stakeholders. It showcases a responsible approach to risk management and emphasises the client's dedication to providing a secure environment.
Due to climate change and extreme weather, fire incidents are becoming more frequent and severe in the UK. They pose a serious threat to public safety, health, well-being and the natural environment. They not only affect a particular area, business or an individual, they also affect the country's economy as a whole. Therefore, it’s crucial that fire risk is taken seriously and mitigated at every opportunity with a robust risk management strategy.
To speak with a member of our friendly risk management team about any of the content in this article or how we can help you with any of your risk management requirements, call 0800 138 7538.