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How to Reduce Fire Risks in Commercial Properties

How to Reduce Fire Risks in Commercial Properties
How to Reduce Fire Risks in Commercial Properties

The most recently published government statistics show that the Fire and Rescue Services in England responded to over 3,700 fires at commercial or non-residential properties in just one quarter, from April to June 2023.

With over 300 fires occurring every week, it is essential businesses and premises owners look closely at how well they manage fire safety and implement preventative action to avoid their sites adding to those figures.

Uncontrolled fire risks can have severe outcomes. A well-practised evacuation policy, fire suppression systems, smoke and heat detection assets and a professional, ongoing fire risk assessment process can mitigate a significant proportion of risks.

What Are the Most Common Fire Risks for Businesses?

The right approach to fire risk mitigation will, of course, depend on the nature of your organisation. If you have equipment or processes that utilise high heat or flammables, you may require a more robust set of fire prevention controls.

Likewise, businesses with critical assets and infrastructure may wish to implement additional safety protocols to safeguard these areas. However, many of the most prevalent fire risks exist in every sector or workplace and can be resolved fairly easily.

Below, we’ve listed the most frequent scenarios that result in a fire or a higher fire risk assessment outcome and how to reduce that risk exposure:

  • Smoking and naked flames are the cause of a large proportion of fires. Adding designated smoking zones away from buildings and with appropriate disposal bins ensures health and safety compliance and reduces this risk.
  • Faulty appliances, poorly maintained electrical connections, and loose wiring are often responsible for electrical fires or can cause sparks that ignite flammables or chemicals. Regular testing, inspections and risk assessments should ensure all devices are PAT checked, heating devices are serviced, and the wiring within your business is in good condition.
  • Accumulated waste materials, by-products, and rubbish are typically combustible, and exposure to heat can mean a seemingly harmless recycling container becomes a serious fire hazard. Any flammable items or waste should be stored in a defined place, away from heat sources, and with appropriate fire extinguishing equipment nearby.

Businesses that work in manufacturing, catering or production also have ongoing hazards related to appliances, machinery and equipment. All staff using these items should be trained in their operation and how to engage emergency cut-offs, sound fire alarms, or respond if they spot smouldering flames, a chemical spill, or another fire risk.

Implementing Regular Fire Risk Assessments

Fire Suppression system installation from Clearway

Alongside the practical steps above, it’s important for every commercial premises to conduct an ongoing fire risk assessment. Rather than a one-off exercise, the evaluation should be repeated at least every six to 12 months or whenever anything within the site changes that might influence the outcomes.

Note that any business in England or Wales that needs to comply with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 must conduct mandatory fire risk assessments.

A risk assessment identifies fire risks, including those you may have previously been unaware of, and determines the risk to people, your building and your equipment or inventory. By recognising those hazards, you can look at the policies or protocols in place to reduce or eliminate them and whether they are sufficient.

During an assessment, businesses should audit all fire safety equipment in place, from extinguishers to evacuation lighting, sprinkler systems and alarm call points, check they all work perfectly, and evaluate where further controls are needed.

Once actions have been identified, they should be assigned to a member of staff or owner with the necessary authority and be completed within a defined timeframe. At this point, the assessment can be repeated or updated.

Your fire risk assessment is important and may be necessary to qualify for insurance coverage or comply with sector-specific regulations.

Selecting the Right Fire Prevention and Detection Systems

There are numerous possible systems, devices and setups you can install to prevent a fire from occurring or expedite your response times when a fire risk develops. Your fire systems are your first defence and might include the following:

Our expert fire safety consultants can provide further advice, including recommendations for higher-risk facilities or businesses. Fire suppression devices prevent a fire from spreading or taking hold, whereas fire detection equipment is primarily there to sound the alarm when a fire occurs or there are early warning signs.

You may also need to review your maintenance and servicing schedule for any fire detection devices already in place – these must be tested periodically to ensure they are functioning as expected. Read more about our fire alarm maintenance services.

Perhaps the most overlooked aspect of commercial fire safety is training. Businesses should have a minimum number of trained fire responders on hand at all times and provide training for every employee within the organisation around evacuation procedures, safe working systems and how to sound an alarm.

Enhancing the Structural Fire Protection of Your Premises

While fire detection and extinguishing equipment are valuable, some businesses may also need to consider their buildings and whether the structure would be able to withstand fire or remain stable while ensuring occupants have sufficient time to evacuate.

These steps are normally relevant to larger commercial compounds, higher-risk businesses, and high-rise buildings. Business premises should, at a minimum, have fire-rated doors that can stop a fire from spreading, but in riskier scenarios, they may also require:

  • Additional or replacement fireproof insulation
  • Fire stops fitted into cavity walls and floor spaces
  • Retrofitted fire-resistant wall or floor coverings

Adding additional fire-resistant materials within the building can prevent structural damage if a fire breaks out, stop the fire from spreading, or slow the speed at which it moves.

By following all of the guidance, businesses can significantly reduce their fire risks with a clear risk assessment schedule, comprehensive staff training, controls around ignition sources, and ongoing checks to ensure their fire safety measures remain suitable.

For further information about any of the suggestions we have mentioned, please get in touch with the Clearway commercial team at your convenience to schedule a good time to talk.

Gavin Upton

Gavin Upton

Sales Director - Clearway: Fire & Security

Solution focused consultative approach aligned to clients strategic and operational road map.

Gavin has had notable successes in delivering solutions for a broad range of large complex clients from both NFE and NFN pipelines.
Extensive knowledge of all three sectors and multiple verticals including Financial Services, Retail, FMCG, Utilities, Healthcare, Automotive and Leisure/Hospitality. His focus is on delivering innovation, growth and retention through providing outsource solutions that deliver cross business benefits whilst utilising technology whether in-situ or new initiatives.

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