The devastating impact of fire on a business can last well after the last flame has been extinguished. With the recent changes in the law, business owners need to understand that there is a criminal liability attached to non-compliance with the legislation. However, the risk can be managed through good practice.
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (FSO) revolves around two concepts: the responsible person and the fire risk assessment. The responsible person (usually the owner of the business) must carry out a fire risk assessment, which focuses on the safety of all relevant people. The assessment must include the following:
● Means of escape. The responsible person must provide means of escape and ensure that they can be accessed at all times.
● Escape routes and exits. Escape routes must be established and always available. Doors must open in the direction of escape and be provided with emergency lighting and signs.
● Signs and notices. These must be provided, giving appropriate instructions to employees and customers, indicating the positions/directions of extinguishers, emergency exit routes and exits.
● Fire Alarm and Detection Systems. An appropriate fire alarm and detection system must be provided.
● Emergency Lighting. This must be provided on escape routes and at exit doors, both internally and externally.
● Compartments and Doors. Measures must be taken to reduce the risk of fire spreading. All fire-resistant walls and doors must be kept in good order; walls must not be breached; and fire doors must have appropriate seals.
● Maintenance. All fire safety equipment must be in good working order.
It is essential that all the fire safety points listed above are designed, installed and maintained by qualified workers.
The Fire Protection Agency divides up the risk assessment into a seven-step process:
1. Identify all the fire hazards
2. Identify people who could be at risk
3. Eliminate, control or avoid the fire hazards
4. Ensure existing safety provisions adequate
5. Record the findings
6. Make an emergency plan
7. Arrange to review the assessment at least annually (updating as necessary).
To prepare for the worst, you should ensure that you have:
● Adequate insurance that covers you for the effects of fire
● Business interruption cover lasting longer than 12 months; a planning issue could easily delay the re-opening of your business
● Good-quality security of premises and yards
● No rubbish left out in the open – make sure it is secured well away from the building
● Maintenance contracts on equipment such as fridges, air conditioners and so on. This also allows you to insure your stock of frozen food if it is spoiled due to breakdown
● Regular inspections and maintenance of all electrical installations by an approved electrician
● CCTV, good-quality monitored alarms and physical security. These are as important in preventing arson as they are for preventing theft.
Norwich Union can help retailers in making sure they are prepared should the worst happen. All Norwich Union customers have access to Norwich Union Risk Services, which provides a telephone-based advice helpline to offer free risk management and health and safety advice for just the price of a phone call.
The Norwich Union Risk Services risk management website also includes risk management information including the Hardfacts series, which covers an extensive range of retail topics. It also provides the latest risk management and legislative news to help retailers keep up to date with changing legislation.
Commercial Legal Protection cover is provided on small business package products as standard, and can be selected as an optional extension on the commercial combined product.
While there are direct benefits to using a well recognised provider such as Norwich Union, SME Insurance Services, which operates the Convenience Store Insurance scheme, will check the market to ensure you are getting the best deal by reviewing a panel of insurers including AXA, RSA, MMA, Groupama and Zurich, as well as several specialist insurers who can cater for requirements outside the norm.
Convenience Store Insurance has a dedicated team of insurance professionals who understand your business insurance needs and can normally provide immediate quotations and instant cover over the telephone.
For further information on Convenience Store Insurance, call the team on 0870 161 0864.
Hot tips for preventing fire
There are three main ways a fire can start: intention (arson), ignorance or carelessness. Here are some hints on how to prevent the worst:
● The damage an arsonist does can be minimised by ensuring that all fire detection systems are working efficiently and are placed in suitable areas. Many fires start in the waste and materials left outside the premises, which can act as a magnet for youths.
● Employees should be clear on whose job it is to carry out fire prevention checks. Confusion over responsibility leads to no one doing anything and many fires could have been prevented had the checks been made in the first place.
● Your business premises should be organised to prevent the risk of fires started by carelessness. For example, cardboard boxes and other combustible materials should be kept away from sources of heat where possible.
● Electrical fires started in fridges, freezers and other display equipment are frequent and highlight the need for clean, well maintained equipment and premises.
Did you know?
● Besides a tragic loss of life, the damage to property, loss of revenue, fines, compensation and insurance claims due to fire cost the economy more than £6.5bn in 2004 in the UK, according to the Association of British Insurers.
● Statistics show that 70-80% of UK businesses fail within three years of experiencing a fire.
● According to the Fire Protection Association, more than 30,000 small businesses burn down every year, showing why it is important to do all you can to protect your store.