With the festive season fast approaching, how much thought have you given to fire safety? If the answer is ‘Not much’, you’re probably not alone. At Christmas, we’re focused on celebrations and spending time with loved ones, but it’s worth also taking time to assess your fire safety arrangements. Empty buildings are a magnet for unwanted attention and there’s no better time than Christmas time for the opportunistic criminal.
In keeping with tradition, we’ve created two checklists for the 12 days of Christmas; one for fire safety concerns and one for security. Each day, we’ll look at an important aspect of fire safety and security and the vulnerabilities created by cold weather and empty buildings. If you work your way through the 12 days, you’ll be well prepared for the Christmas holidays and can enjoy the break in the knowledge your business is protected.
Your business is precious to you and any fire safety issues can be devastating, both to property and personal safety. Let’s look at how you can protect yourself and start the new year on a positive note.
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The Fire Safety Christmas Checklist
Day 1: Let there be light (but only if they’re safe)
Electrical equipment is always top of fire safety hazard lists, particularly if it’s not in good condition. Misuse can also an issue when employees overload sockets or position electrical items in ill-advised places.
Christmas lights are only used once a year so it’s tempting to ignore the usual checks. This is exactly how accidents happen. If they’ve been stored in a cupboard all year, it’s even more important. Always make sure that lights are portable appliance tested by a ‘competent’ person.
Don’t put your lights next to anything flammable and it’s worth checking that they conform to the correct British Standards (BS EN 60598). For outdoor use, install the correct equipment and it goes without saying that you should never overload sockets.
Day 2: Deck the halls with… fire-safe Christmas trees and decorations
You only have to glance at an artificial tree to know it’s flammable. Shiny, reflective plastic is a popular choice of material for Christmas decorations. When you’re choosing the decorations for your office or warehouse, take a moment to consider how safe they are.
If fire does break out, do you have decorations which could exacerbate an already stressful situation? Decorations made from paper and card are a prime example. And where do you plan to hang your decorations? Use appropriate fixtures and fittings rather than draping tinsel over a light fitting or computer which emits heat.
Remember that existing fire safety procedures must not be affected by Christmas decorations. Emergency signage must always be kept clear of obstructions.
Day 3: Drink and be merry, but always be safe
Alcohol-related events are, unsurprisingly, more likely during the Christmas period. While we all love an office party, if you’re having one this year, make sure there are checks in place once everyone has left and locked up.
Forgetting to set security alarms or leaving lights on could lead to something far more serious.
Day 4: Bang! How to enjoy fireworks safely
Whether your business sells fireworks or plans to purchase them for a party, the UK has clear rules on the sale and usage of fireworks.
- The Fireworks Regulations 2004 state that you must display a sign where fireworks are sold stating it is illegal to sell fireworks or sparklers to anyone under 18
- You must have a licence to store fireworks, and if you do, make sure you store them according to guidance
- Never sell to under 18s (or ask an underage employee to buy them for you)
Fireworks can create unwanted smoke and fire if handled incorrectly. If you’re planning a display, it’s worth reviewing your fire risk assessment and practice your fire drills so you aren’t caught out.
Day 5: Have you checked your electrics?
Electrical faults are one of the largest causes of fire in commercial and industrial properties.
Did you know that lights must conform to current British and European standards? There will be a BS or CN number on the equipment (usually on the transformer).
It’s a good idea to check your lights and other Christmas appliances before you use them. If they’re not in good condition or don’t have appropriate markings, think twice before plugging them in. All equipment must be correctly earthed or have double insulation.
Finally, if you’ve provided extra heaters over the winter, use them sensibly.
Day 6: Is your evacuation plan in place?
If a fire does break out, how prepared are you? Does your business have an evacuation plan in place? If not, you’re breaking the law and should rectify this immediately.
An evacuation plan provides clear instructions on how to exit the building quickly and safely and who should contact the emergency services. It avoids mass panic and reduces the risk to personal safety.
Evacuation plans vary significantly for small and large businesses so it’s worth taking advice from a fire risk assessor on what’s needed and how you should make employees and other building users aware of it. You’ll also need to train key employees to act as fire marshals.
Always remember that obstructing signage or exits is highly dangerous, so please avoid it, at all costs.
Day 7: Smoking in the workplace is never a good idea
Smoking in the workplace has been banned since 2007 but social smoking tends to increase during the holidays.
Employers are legally responsible for preventing all workplace smoking; are you compliant with the law?
Clear signage and a company smoking policy can help educate employees who may not be aware of the legislation. If you have outside smoking areas, check they are clearly marked and that no-one is smoking where they shouldn’t be.
Day 8: Take care of candles
Candles are an obvious fire hazard and should never be left unattended.
There are a wide range of realistic alternatives now available, including flame-effect, battery operated candles. You may already have opted for fairy lights – if so, our advice above is worth following.
Day 9: Cook up a feast while being fire safe
If your business premises have a kitchen, you should already be well versed in fire safety. However, before you shut up shop for Christmas, it’s worth double checking that your kitchen is completely free from fire risks.
- Fryers should be emptied of old fat and thoroughly cleaned
- Unplug all electrical items
- Check your gas supply is safe
- Close all fire doors before exiting the building
Day 10: Caring is sharing, especially at Christmas
Are you a carer, concerned about changes to routine at Christmas?
An up-to-date fire risk assessment is a great place to start, ensuring that children are included as a separate user group. Planning for fire-related emergencies takes the stress out of busy times like Christmas.
As part of this, you can also carry out regular fire drills, encouraging children to think about fire safety and get used to the sound of fire alarms. Role play techniques can be particularly effective.
For schools we also recommend inviting the local fire service to come and talk to your children about fire safety. They’ll love it!
Day 11: Fire doors save lives
We can’t underestimate the importance of a functioning fire door. Regular maintenance and inspections will ensure that they don’t fail you during the holidays (and it’s a legal requirement, so not worth skipping).
What might we inspect during a scheduled fire maintenance visit?
- Are your doors fully certified?
- Do they all close correctly?
- Are there any uneven or too large gaps around the frame?
- Are the intumescent seals in place around the door? Are any damaged?
- Is the correct signage on display?
- Are fire doors being used inappropriately (propped open with a chair or box)?
Day 12: Is your fire alarm ready for action?
Imagine a fire breaking out in your business premises over Christmas while they are empty. How long might it take for someone to raise the alarm? Statistics show that the majority of businesses take many years to recover from a serious fire.
A weekly test by the business owner (or maintenance staff) must be carried out in addition to regular, routine maintenance by a professional fire safety supplier.
Fire safety and is important at any time of the year, but Christmas and the new year present an additional set of challenges.
By taking some time to read our safety tips, you can enjoy the festive period without too many distractions.
We’d love to assist you with your fire safety systems.
If you’d like further advice, please give us a call.
We’re always happy to help!
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