Fires are bad for business, and we know that fire safety law can be difficult to understand. This web page is intended to help you with actions that you may need to take to protect your staff and customers. This page is divided into three sections and provides the following help.
- How to get a simple fire safety check.
- Understanding "Basic Fire Precautions".
- Where to seek further advice through a professional risk assessor.
A simple fire safety check - Business Safe and Well Visit.
It is a good idea to check the level of fire safety in your business. For small businesses and less complex premises, Surrey Fire & Rescue Service offer a simple fire safety check through an initiative called "Business Safe and Well Visits". During the visit, we will discuss your answers to eight questions. These questions allow for a discussion about your fire safety and if required, where you can seek further help and support in both being compliant with the law and remaining safe from fire. However, these visits are not designed to enforce the law and will not take up much of your time.
If any concerns arise during a Business Safe and Well Visit, we can direct you to further sources of help and support, and in some cases, arrange for a specialist fire safety officer to contact you and arrange a second visit. Specialist officers can provide further support in the following areas.
- Help you to reduce the risks.
- Explain how to keep compliant with fire safety law.
- Ensure you know how to keep employees and visitors safe.
- Explain where you can get more help to improve the safety of your business.
(You can use a fire risk assessment template. However, it is important that the template you use is suitable and sufficient for your premises).
Basic Fire Precautions
If you are confident in your answers to all the questions below, you are likely managing the general fire precautions in your business. If you can't comfortably answer the questions, you need to act and make some changes. These changes may be small steps, such as not wedging open fire doors or getting your fire extinguisher serviced. However, you may need to take significant action, for example, if you do not think everyone can be alerted and that it may be difficult to get out of your building if there was fire, you need to fix this quickly.
To gain a better understanding, consider the following questions.
Has my business got a fire risk assessment?
Fire risk assessment is an organised and methodical look at your premises. It should consider the activities that occur there and the likelihood of a fire starting. The assessment aims to drive down the risk of fire to people on the premises. A fire risk assessment should:
- Identify fire hazards.
- Identify the people at risk.
Reduce the risk of those hazards causing harm to as low as reasonably practicable.
Determine what physical precautions and management arrangements are necessary to ensure the safety of persons in or around your premises.
A fire risk assessment template for simple premises is available on our website. A risk assessment needs to be suitable, sufficient and to have been conducted by a competent person. If you are not confident that you can carry out a fire risk assessment, or your premises are complex (for example people sleep in your building, you store hazardous materials, your building has an unusual complex layout), you may need to employ a professional fire risk assessor.
Could a fire start easily at my business?
Sources of ignition should be identified and be removed, replaced, reduced or controlled wherever possible to minimise the chances of a fire starting. You should consider the ignition sources that may be present in your business and think about how you can remove, reduce or replace the risk.
- Electrical appliances
- Hot works
- Electricity supply
Arson also provides a significant risk to businesses, however, there are several preventative steps that you can take; control access to buildings, improve security, and store rubbish and flammable materials away from your building.
Could a fire spread quickly or unnoticed?
Consider where and how fire and smoke may spread. Sources of ignition should be separated from things that can burn to reduce the likelihood of a fire starting and spreading. A small fire can very quickly develop and fill a room with heat and smoke. You should always make sure that escape routes are safe to use. These routes should be kept clear of storage. Flammable materials should be securely stored in an appropriate container.
A fire should not be able to develop unnoticed, depending on the size and layout of your building, you may need automatic fire detection.
- Building construction and layout
- Fire detection
- Stock and storage
- Voids and ducting
- Flammable liquids
- Poor housekeeping
- Compressed gasses
Do all the staff know what to do in an emergency?
People in your premises need to know what to do if there is a fire. Staff training should be carried out on induction and at regular intervals. Emergency plans need to be practiced and tested to ensure they work. A quick response to an emergency can minimise financial losses to your business.
Things that help your business to cope with an emergency:
- Instruction and training (initial and refresher)
- Action on discovering a fire
- Action on hearing alarm
- Evacuation procedure
- Fire drills
- Contracting the fire service
Can everyone be alerted quickly if there's a fire?
In some small buildings, a shout of "fire!", a manual gong or an air horn may be all that is needed to raise the alarm. In more complex, larger premises or where people are sleeping automatic fire detection is generally required. You should refer to your fire risk assessment, the relevant government guidance or a professional fire risk assessor if you are unsure about what type of fire alarm you need.
- How fire is detected
- How the alarm is raised
- Vulnerable people
- Persons sleeping at the premises
- Lone workers
- Unoccupied areas
Is there a way to tackle a small fire?
Firefighting equipment may reduce the risk of a small fire, becoming a large fire. People with no training should not be expected to tackle a fire; if you expect your staff to tackle a small fire, you must train them. Your fire risk assessment should identify what equipment is needed.
Fire extinguishers are there to prevent a small fire from developing and should only be used if it is safe to do so. They are not meant to be a way to fight your way out of a building!
Not everyone needs to be trained to use fire extinguishers; for example, it might be decided to only train kitchen staff or fire marshals. Again, your fire risk assessment should be used to identify who is trained and what equipment is provided.
Can everyone get out safely if there's an emergency?
Consider evacuation and whether people will need assistance. Corridors and stairs on escape routes must be kept clear. Exit doors must be easily usable. If visitors are unfamiliar with the layout, signs may be required. Consider how people will escape if the normal lighting fails; if your business operates overnight or relies on artificial lighting, you may need emergency lighting as a back-up. Your risk assessment should indicate whether you need emergency lighting. If emergency lighting is required, it should be installed by the British Standard (BS 5266–8).
For a safe evacuation you need to consider:
- The number of people in your business (at its busiest times)
- Visitors or members of staff with disabilities – they may need help to evacuate safely
- Locked or blocked doors
- Evacuation routes
- Signs (for complex layouts and unfamiliar visitors)
- The number of exits from the building to safety
- Emergency lighting
- Shut down procedures, i.e. gas isolation in kitchens or plant rooms (how the building will be made safe in an emergency)
Not all exits need to be designated fire exits, however, if they are signed as such the doors must be easily opened. If people are familiar with the premises, and it has a small and simple layout, signage may not be necessary. Conversely, premises with large, complex layouts, or where people are unfamiliar with the building are likely to require signage.
Some useful indicators of how many people can safely be in your building:
- One standard door allows a room to contain a maximum of 60 people.
- If there's only one exit the maximum travel distance is 18m from the furthest point to the exit.
- If you are unsure, or your building holds large numbers of people, you should have your fire risk assessment carried out by a professional.
Do you regularly carry out safety checks?
Safety equipment must be kept in good working order. Regular checks, maintenance and testing, should be carried out to ensure your premises are safe. It is good practice to keep a record of these activities to keep track of safety issues. If a fire safety officer inspects your business, they will want to see these records. Equally, your insurer may require evidence that you are running a safe business. A recommended way to record these activities is by using a logbook
Examples of the type of checks you may need to carry out are:
- Fire alarm testing, weekly test plus any servicing and maintenance
- Clear escape routes, daily check of the premises to ensure people can evacuate
- Portable appliance annual tests.
- Emergency lighting test. Monthly functional test (each light should be tested at least once a year to ensure the whole system has been checked. Annual full duration test of the whole system.
- Fixed wiring test (five-yearly professional test)
- Gas safety. Annual test of each gas appliance/flue.
- Fire doors checks. At least once every six months, more in high use areas.
- Employing a Professional Fire Risk Assessor.
Where to seek advice.
If you'd prefer a professional fire risk assessor to undertake your assessment and to record the required information, the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) Fire Safety Risk Assessment Guidance can help you to select an assessor.
If you need any further advice, contact the fire authority.
Business Fire Safety awareness tool
This interactive tool has been developed to help small business owners understand their legal duties for fire safety in the workplace.
Take part in an interactive walkthrough to understand your legal duties for fire safety in the workplace.
Business Fire Safety awareness tool (on the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) website)
This Fire Safety Awareness Tool was developed in collaboration between NFCC, Eyecademy and 925 Studios at Northampton University, with funding provided by the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Regulators Pioneer Fund.
Files available to download
Fire Risk Assessment Template (PDF)
This is a template intended for printing and to aid persons conducting fire risk assessments for simple premises.