Property guide: how to minimise fire risks

Property guide: how to minimise fire risks

Between the period of April to September 2013, there were 140 fire fatalities in England.

While this is 33% lower than the same period of 2003, there is still a need for better fire risk management, not only at home but also in the workplace.

According to government guidelines, if you are an owner, employer, landlord or occupier of business (or other non-domestic) premises, you are responsible for fire safety. This 'responsible person' can ensure that the work premises and the people who work there are kept safe from fire and its effects by:

  • carrying out risk assessment and using this to work out who may be particularly at risk in the event of a fire
  • providing and maintaining proper fire precautions to protect workforce
  • providing all relevant instructions, information and training to employees regarding fire precautions at work

Bringing things back to basics, in order for a fire to start there are three things that are needed:

  • Fuel (such as flammable liquids, gases and solids)
  • Oxygen (which is always present in the air)
  • An ignition source (electrical equipment, hot surfaces, naked flames, smoking and static electricity, for example).

If one of these three factors is missing, a fire cannot start. Therefore, taking precautions to avoid them coming together will significantly reduce the chances of a fire occurring.

Vigilance and good management of your premises will reduce the risk of fire, but there are some ways in which you can protect your premises against specific types of fire.

Fire (Arson)

Different businesses are more likely to fall victim to arson than others, but proper security (for example, getting experts to check windows, shutters and locks) as well as maintaining electronic security systems (such as CCTV and intruder alarms) are effective ways to minimise the risk. In addition, it is recommended to use enclosed and lockable waste skips and bins.

Fire (Gas or Electrical)

All systems should be installed by a professional and qualified contractor (members of the Gas Safe Register or NICEIC-approved) - you can find an approved person on each body's respective website. As well as this, frequent and thorough testing and inspection will reduce the risk of a gas or electrical fire. Establishing who has control over the use of portable appliances is also important, and is sometimes an insurance requirement.

Fire (Processes and Storage)

In order to minimise the risk of process and storage fires, proper cut-outs or thermostats/limiters should be installed where pre-heating is required. Analysing the layout of storage to minimise the likelihood of combustible materials being kept in close proximity to a heat source will also help to reduce the risk. Of course, fire detection systems are crucial and, if possible, always segregate process areas from storage areas.

Insuring against the unexpected

The above are all important steps to take to reduce the chances of a fire occurring. Nevertheless, sufficient insurance should always be in place to ensure your business can be back on it's feet quickly following a fire. When arranging cover, it's important not to under insure your buildings and contents, otherwise your business could lose a significant amount of money through the assets lost in the fire. The ABI offer an online rebuilding cost calculator to help you estimate the rebuild cost of your property.

If you would like help arranging insurance for your business' property, get an online quote now or call us on 0800 640 6600.

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