Fire safety compliance breaches can be costly. It is only a couple of years since Poundstretcher was fined £1 million for health and safety breaches. The retailer pleaded guilty to a staggering 24 breaches of the 1974 'Health & Safety at Work Act' across three UK stores.
Key health & safety failings included:
- Fire exits blocked by overstocked storage areas
- Stock stored in a dangerous fashion
- Lack of protection and health and safety training for junior staff
They are not alone; JD Sports was fined £67,500 for fire safety breaches the year before admitting six offences at its Dudley retail outlet. The government announced unlimited fines for those who breach fire safety regulations under the Fire Safety Order.
Workplace Fire Safety Tips at Christmas
Staying safe has a lot to do with common sense. Following our tips will not only keep staff and customers out of danger but will also help you avoid hefty fines.
1. Increase fire wardens/marshal checks
Regularly check emergency exits as well as escape routes and promptly report any issues to the store or health and safety manager. Ensure there are regular fire drills to identify any fire safety issues that need to be addressed. Christmas is a busy time of year which requires proactive engagement in marshal checks.
2. Step up good housekeeping practices
Waste packaging can cause congestion, trips, and falls. Make sure it is removed promptly for disposal and not allowed to build up in busy areas or along exit routes. During the festive season, there can be more waste packaging than usual, so this requires particular attention.
3. Always keep fire doors clear
Avoid storing surplus stock or display equipment in front of any fire doors. These are emergency exits, and any obstruction hampers evacuation. In the event of a fire, every second counts.
4. Check clearances in any storage rooms
Don't stock items too high, and ensure that there is adequate clearance from lights or other heat sources to minimise the fire risk. And don't store stock directly under sprinkler systems, as this may make them less effective in the event of a fire.
5. Communicate emergency routes
Pay particular attention to training temporary or seasonal staff or anyone seconded from another store. All staff working during the festive season need to be aware of the emergency routes and assembly points. They may be unfamiliar with your store layout and the rules.
6. Monitor & manage overcrowding
Of course, all businesses want to see increased footfall in stores at Christmas. But be sensible and realistic. If customers cannot move around easily, they may not be able to evacuate safely either. In extreme situations, consider closing the doors temporarily to all new visitors to keep everyone safe.
7. Ensure fire extinguishers are visible
Any attached to plasterboard walls could end up becoming loose, potentially detaching and causing injuries. It is vital to ensure that all fire extinguishers are clearly visible and securely fitted. Loose fire extinguishers should either be placed on a floor stand or refitted with a sturdy backboard.
8. Check all Christmas lights thoroughly
Decorative lights are an additional fire hazard not usually present at other times of the year. That's why it's crucial to get a qualified person to examine the wires for frayed cables and to ensure that all connections are intact.
More on Compliance at Christmas
If you prove your compliance credentials, you may just win a prize. All comply with our anti-bribery policy, of course - you'd expected nothing less!
If you've any questions or concerns about compliance or e-learning, please get in touch.
We are happy to help!